Anniversary of Troy Davis Execution Prompts Discourse

Tomorrow, September 21, is the one-year anniversary of the controversial execution of Troy Davis in Georgia. (See report from a year ago here.) Since 1989 DNA has revealed that wrongful conviction—the conviction of a person totally innocent of the crime—does happen, and more frequently than most Americans believe. That reality begs the question of whether or not an innocent person has been executed in the United States. Troy Davis’s execution elevated this question in national and international debate a year ago and is raising the discussion again one year later on at least one university campus.

As reported in the Winston-Salem Journal (here), Wake Forest is hosting a two-day event to discuss wrongful executions. The event is sponsored by the Wake Forest University School of Law’s Innocence and Justice Clinic, Wake Forest University’s Institute for Public Engagement and Wake Forest’s religion and documentary film studies departments.

Rob Warden, executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern Law, who is writing a book, “Executed in Error” on the topic, notes that there are many compelling cases—including the Davis case—in which there is persuasive evidence of an execution of an innocent person.

DNA-proven wrongful convictions have recast the debate on capital punishment from the polarizing morality discussion to the question of whether or not there is 100 percent accuracy in the determination of guilt for the ultimate punishment. The Innocence Project reports (here) that “17 of the 297 persons exonerated through DNA served time on death row.”

This anniversary should underscore an important lesson: We can reduce wrongful convictions and uncertainties such as those experienced in the Troy Davis case by implementing many proven best practices in criminal justice procedures. These include, but are not limited to, access to post-conviction DNA testing in worthy cases, evidence preservation, blind administration of lineups, recording of custodial interrogations, and numerous recommendations to elevate standards in forensic science. All of these measures would assure more confidence in the accuracy of outcomes in criminal justice, not only in the United States but throughout the world.

For those who were troubled  by Troy Davis’s death a year ago, a productive channel for your concern—and a worthy legacy for any who may have been wrongfully executed—is committed advocacy for recommended improvements in the criminal justice system.

2 responses to “Anniversary of Troy Davis Execution Prompts Discourse

  1. In an effort to resurrect my own hope and faith following Troy’s tragic execution, I decided to take his last letter to me and transpose it into a poem. It’s my attempt to show that TROY IS STILL SPEAKING, that his message is more alive than ever…

    ~ a poem both for and by Troy Davis,
    composed using only the words
    from his last letter to me ~

    In this world, each word is life—
    The heart of tomorrow
    Already touched with believing,
    The hope I pray
    To bless into being;

    For freedom keeps the page of change
    Filled with the “if” of God,
    Enough that you and I express
    What’s fighting to be Cause;

    So read this world, this poem, as life—
    As Troy, as family—
    And thank the better heart that wrote
    Each wanted word for me.

    Roxanne Ivey
    Poet for Positive Change

  2. Pingback: Ein Jahr und zwei Wochen » Gedanken zur Todesstrafe

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