On August 19, 1989, a homeless man was being pistol whipped in the Greyhound Station in Savannah, Georgia. Officer Mark MacPhail of the Savannah PD was running to the scene, doing his job.
Serve and Protect.
He never got there. He was shot to death. Troy Davis (that's him on the right) did or did not shoot MacPhail. I don't know whether he did it or not. Neither do you. Maybe Troy does. After all these years maybe he doesn't even know anymore.
Here's what I know, what anyone who's paid attention knows.
- No physical evidence points to Troy. None. No DNA. No fingerprints. The gun hasn't been found.
- He never confessed. Not to the cops. Not to the guys at the bar. Not to a jailhouse snitch.
- The case against him was made entirely through eyewitness identification by a series of lay witnesses.
- Along with various folks from law enforcement and related government types, there were nine other witnesses.
- Seven of those nine witnesses have recanted their testimony. Several say they were coerced and intimidated by the cops into fingering Troy.
- In the years since the killing, other witnesses have come forward. Some identify the actual killer as on Sylvester Coles.
As I said, I don't know whether Troy Davis killed Officer MacPhail. I don't know if he's ever killed anyone. Neither do you. Neither do the folks in the state of Georgia. You know, the ones who plan to kill him Wednesday.
Monday the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles meets to hear Troy's case. They can let the killing go forward or they can stop it. (In Georgia, the governor has no power to grant or deny clemency.) Like you and me, the Board members don't know whether Troy did it. But in their ignorance, there's one difference between them and us.
After they say that they don't know (or announce what they believe, but regardless of belief, they don't know), they can either say
Since we don't know if he's guilty, it's right that he should be killed.
or they can say,
Since we don't know if he's guilty, we can't allow him to be killed.
Whatever they decide, they won't put it so starkly, but it'll be that stark.
I know which way I'd vote.
Except, I'm not on the Board.