Archive for September, 2011

Palestinian Statehood, Discussion with Law Prof. Francis A. Boyle

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Palestinian Statehood, Discussion with Law Prof. Francis A. Boyle
Plan B Uniting for Peace Resolution

UPDATE: 9:21 PM ET, Haaretz reporting, Palestinians have 9 votes at the UN Security Council for Palestinian Statehood. “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is due to leave for Colombia next week, in an attempt to convince officials in the South American nation to support a bid for Palestinian statehood at the United Nations Security Council.” UPDATE part two: “Police officers who were present at the scene did nothing while the activists were beaten and their cameras smashed. Some of the attackers wore police shirts and carried service weapons, which attests to the fact that they are a part of the police force even though they were off duty.” See 23 people were injured in a settler attack on Palestinians and Israeli activists. Police officers who were present at the scene did nothing while the activists were beaten and their cameras smashed. Some of the attackers wore police shirts and carried service weapons, which attests to the fact that they are a part of the police force even though they were off duty.”

A Palestinian official speaking with Haaretz on Friday, said that “within the Security Council there are nine nations who had already recognized a Palestinian state, so the Palestinians expect those countries to support the [UN] proposal too.”

UPDATE: 4 PM ET, We are getting unconfirmed but well resourced reports of Settler Violence being committed, ten wounded Palestinians. We will provide more info. when it is made available. There will likely be a coordinated response from Palestinians soon.

“Time to end Israel’s stall and delay tactics on so called talks while they build settlements,” Boyle says. We discuss history of the discussion on Palestinian statehood. Review of year long effort to get votes, UN Security Council, Israel, US, and Palestinian leaders.

Produced by Dori Smith
Music by Fritz Heede
Download at Pacifica’s Audioport here or at and

Palestinians need statehood prior to any negotiations with Israel. As a result of peace agenda during Reagan years, the Palestinians began a “diplomatic dialogue” with the PLO, which means diplomatic de facto recognition that continues today. The status has been upgraded since then to the status of “observer state” which has been held by Switzerland in the past, prior to their UN membership. The Vatican also has “observer state” status.

“Time to end Israel’s stall and delay tactics on so called talks while they build settlements, Boyle says. We discuss history of the discussion on Palestinian statehood. Historically Palestinian efforts to achieve more UN status has been met with strong opposition and even threats from the USA, specifically from former Ambassador Pickering.

Half hour Talk Nation Radio Special, An interview with Prof. Francis A. Boyle of the U. of Illinois School of Law, on Palestinian Statehood. He is author of the book, Palestine, Palestinians and International Law and served as a Legal Adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organization (from 1987) and the Provisional Government of the State of Palestine (from 1988) on the creation of the State of Palestine, its accession to the Geneva Conventions and Protocols, invocation of the Uniting for Peace Resolution, admission to the United Nations Organization, accepting the I.C.C.’s jurisdiction, etc. (See more on his bio bio)

He says the Palestinians have support for statehood in the U.N. General Assembly, which they already have as a “defacto” status. Once they do achieve statehood they will sign on to the International Criminal Court. We discuss the process in political context and get an update on events at the UN. We also learn more about what would happen after Palestinian statehood, including the Palestinians effort to join the ICC. We get an update on an investigation by the ICC (International Criminal Court), and hear how Israelis and the US media have ignored what has already been submitted to the ICC asking for an investigation and prosecution into the actions of Israel and their military.

Could a US veto be overcome by means of a Uniting for Peace Resolution? Attorney Boyle says yes, because the Palestinians already have Observer State Status and already filed a Complaint with the ICC, which is pending. The ICC prosecutor has publicly stated that he is investigating. Once they are able to obtain statehood, “they can lodge a state complaint against the highest levels of Israel that will perfect the complaint that the Palestinians have already filed.–Thus, full-fledged UN State Membership is now the only realistic option for Palestine and the Palestinians.”

See Reuters, “U.S. tries to stall Palestinian statehood bid: report” September 3rd 2011, “Washington has launched an effort to avoid a clash stemming from plans by Palestinians to seek recognition as a state at the United Nations, The New York Times reported on Saturday, citing senior U.S. officials and foreign diplomats. –The Obama administration has introduced a plan to restart peace talks with Israel to try to convince Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to give up the bid to seek recognition at the annual meeting of leaders at the U.N. General Assembly, it said.” More here.

Interview with Prof Ernest Drucker about his book, A Plague of Prisons

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Talk Nation Radio for September 29, 2011
Professor Ernest Drucker, A Plague of Prisons
The Epidemic of Mass Incarcerations in America

UPDATE: Breaking News, a Florida Judge struck down an effort to privatize prisons.

Prof Ernest Drucker’s new book, A Plague of Prisons offers a shocking overview of what has gone terribly wrong within America’s prison system. He writes that there has been a 1733% increase in the number of Americans incarcerated over drug charges since 1973. As the inmate population soars, clinical psychologist Ernest Drucker documents the damage to inmates and their families as well as society as a whole.

TRT: 29:07
Produced by Dori Smith
Download at Pacifica’s Audioport here or at and

We learn that despite economic stagnation in America, mass incarceration has become an irrational and self-defeating system of revolving doors. Many judges are essentially robo-signing as they sentence inmates to jail over and over again. They may not have any discretion as to the sentencing in many drug cases as the law provides for strict punishments even for addicts. Ernest Drucker is a clinical psychologist who flips the nature of current debate around, arguing for example that it is not marijuana use which leads to more serious crime and further incarceration. Rather, it is incarceration for marijuana use which causes the behaviors leading to perpetual incarceration.

Ernest Drucker also talks about the lack of political will in America, where mass incarceration is a “third rail” of politics. Touch it and you perish. Professor Ernest Drucker also comments on the high profile death penalty case of Troy Anthony Davis, and we discuss some of the reasons for the epidemic of mass arrests in the USA.

Palestine at the UN, Turkey at the ICC: Frank Barat of Russell Tribunal on Palestine, Prof. John Quigley, Ohio’s Moritz School of Law

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Talk Nation Radio for September 21, 2011
Palestine at the UN, Turkey at the ICC
Frank Barat of Russell Tribunal on Palestine, Prof. John Quigley, Ohio’s Moritz School of Law

Human rights issues are analyzed by an activist as Palestinians seeking statehood are threatened with “dire” consequences by Israelis. The US cajoles Israel and Turkey in New York. Plus legal analysis of Turkey’s case at the ICC against Israel by international law expert. Can the Palestinians rely on Mahmoud Abbas to make gains for them through the use of a statehood appeal at the UN and International Law? Or will they lose further land and rights? (Photo of “The Shepherds’ Field- Beit Sahour” which is the birthplace of Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh, and he points out that the Mosque and Church are in the same block.)

TRT: 29:00
Produced by Dori Smith
Download at Pacifica’s Audioport here or at and

Frank Barat joins us as Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas arrives in New York to see his promise through to try to obtain statehood for Palestine.

Frank Barat is a human rights activist and Frank Barat author with Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe, of, “Gaza in Crisis: Reflections on Israel’s War Against the Palestinians” His new book will be coming out soon outlining the London session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, the 2011 session is opening November 5th .

Frank Barat focuses on human rights in the context of the Israeli occupation. He is the Coordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine and has written for Electronic Intifada,Counterpunch, Z Magazine, New Internationalist, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs and the Palestine Chronicle. (Scholar and activist Mazin Qumsiyeh, being arrested in Al-Walaja in 2010. Prof. Qumsiyeh teaches at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities in occupied Palestine. He previously served on the faculties of the University of Tennessee, Duke and Yale Universities. See this link for further information.)

-CLIPS: A member of the official Palestinian delegation to the UN, Husam Zamlot, and partial comments of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, both from Al Jazeera English.
-Netanyahu makes an effort to get ahead of morning headlines in America with a sudden offer to negotiate. Palestinians response, it is “propaganda”. They insist that Israel must cease construction of illegal settlements prior to any negotiations.
-News: There has been an explosion in a busy downtown section of Ankara, Turkey, that killed three people and wounded 34. The blast later turned out to be the result of a car bomb and one person was arrested at the scene after it was reported that she called out something that seemed political. Kurdish separatists have been blamed but there was no immediate claim of responsibility.
-Meanwhile Turkey is seeking to bring Israel to the ICC. Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has been discussing bringing Israel to the ICC, now do they have to be a member state to the ICC statute first?
-Another concern for Israel and the US is the potential for the Palestinians to join the International Criminal Court once they obtain statehood. We’ll also hear from law professor John Quigley about Turkey’s case at the ICC against Israel.

Professor John Quigley of Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law joins us to talk about Turkey’s efforts to bring Israel to the ICC, International Criminal Court. He is an expert on International Law and writes on the United Nations, war and peace, east European law, African law, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and other topics, and he is very familiar with events on board the Mavi Marmara. John Quigley is author of many books and publications including Palestine and Israel: A Challenge to Justice.

Ground Truths about the U.S. Operation in Afghanistan; Experts on Afghanistan Elizabeth Gould & Paul Fitzgerald

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Talk Nation Radio for September 15, 2011
Ground Truths about the U.S. Operation in Afghanistan
Experts on Afghanistan Elizabeth Gould & Paul Fitzgerald join us.
They are authors of the book, Crossing Zero, The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire.
We are once again at a turning point for Afghanistan as Kabul falls prey to yet another violent power struggle.

TRT: 29:00
Produced by Dori Smith, Storrs, CT
Download at Pacifica’s Audioport here Or at and

We also discuss the latest report by Gould & Fitzgerald titled, 9/11, Psychological Warfare & the American Narrative. (Continuing series on Although we spoke with them before the US Embassy in Kabul came under fire, Paul Fitzgerald coincidentally bringing up events there in 1979 that heralded a new US policy of supporting Afghan warlords and power brokers in a fight against the Russians in Afghanistan, this perpetuating the US Cold War era.

As Americans marked the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York City, a suicide bomber blew up a truck at a NATO combat outpost in Afghanistan. The base serves US Special Forces, and the Army reported 89 soldiers wounded. Two Afghan civilians were killed including a three-year-old child. In the next 48 hours, Kabul exploded with a series of bombings and ground attacks as gunmen said to be linked to the Taliban’s Haqqani, with suspected Al-Qaeda ties, appear responsible for breaking through to top security zones around NATO and the US Embassy. (See 9/11 in Kabul here on Al Jazeera English). Will Kabul once again be victimized by a power struggle between forces that have battled again and again using money and resources from various occupying forces? Will the ground war become more of an air war? And more costly for civilians? Many questions as the election cycle begins, and the transition for competing war lords also begins.

Jen Marlowe, Law Prof. Anne Emanuel, Troy Davis Execution Scheduled for 9-21-2011

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Talk Nation Radio for 9-8-2011
Jen Marlowe, Law Prof. Anne Emanuel, Troy Davis Execution Scheduled for 9-21-2011
Human Rights Activists Start Emergency Action to Get Clemency for Troy Davis

50 Members of US Congress signed a letter asking Georgia’s Clemency Board to commute Troy Davis’s sentence from death to life. See NAACP link here.

Troy Anthony Davis was executed on 9-21-11 at 11:08 PM after the US Supreme Court refused to give him a stay. U.S. President Barack Obama. A discussion took place at the White House Press office on 9-19-11 where a journalist named April tries to get answers about the President’s position on Troy Davis. Here is the exchange which took place in the PRESS BRIEFING BY PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY, TREASURY SECRETARY TIM GEITHNER,
AND OMB DIRECTOR JACK LEW, James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. 11:50 A.M. EDT. There was plenty of time to get the President involved, and have him inquire as to the details. Members of the US Supreme Court like Justice Stevens wrote strong opinions on the lack of fairness in the case. It was clear by then that the case would go to Justice Thomas for final decision, and Thomas issued an opinion in opposition to Stevens. See the Death Penalty Information Center here. (Justice Stevens: “I find this case, which involves a black defendant and a white victim, particularly troubling. Rather than perform a thorough proportionality review to mitigate the heightened risks of arbitrariness and discrimination in this case, the Georgia Supreme Court carried out an utterly perfunctory review. Its undertaking consisted of a single paragraph, only the final sentence of which considered whether imposition of the death penalty in this case was proportionate as compared to the sentences imposed for similar offenses”. Justice Thomas: “There is nothing constitutionally defective about the Georgia Supreme Court’s determination. Proportionality review is not constitutionally required in any form.”) More at these links: Supreme Court and New Voices.

White House Press Office

Carney: Okay, let’s move on here. April, you have your hand up?

Q Jay, I want to ask you a couple of questions about the death penalty issue, especially as we’re seeing September 31st [sic] as the date for Troy Davis to possibly be executed. Where does this administration stand on issues of the death penalty, particularly when there is a question about a person’s guilt or innocence?
MR. CARNEY: Well, as you know, the President has written that he believes the death penalty does little to deter crime but that some crimes merit the ultimate punishment. Some of you may also recall that when the President was in the Illinois State Senate this was an issue where he worked across the aisle to find common ground.
With regard to the specific case, I haven’t talked to the President about that, and I would refer questions about it to the Department of Justice.
Q A follow-up on that, please. Congress has several bills that I understand the Justice Department is in support of review of the criminal punishment system, as well as death penalty. Why is there a review when some things, particularly in a death penalty case, on racial aspects, there are — we know that certain groups of people are on death row and a lot of those cases those people are found to be innocent. So is there any thought of a moratorium on death penalty cases right now with all the questions that are –
MR. CARNEY: I’m not aware of a review of that nature. There may be one, but, yes, I would direct you to the Department of Justice if, in fact, they’re doing that kind of review. But I’m not aware of that kind of discussion going on.
Q Can you get Justice to talk about it at least?
MR. CARNEY: Well, honestly, Justice is an independent — is an agency that decides when it deals with the press how it will answer those questions.
Q I’m sorry, Jay. Just to piggyback on what April said, because she and I are obviously on the same plane today. The President was supposed to speak at the Martin Luther King Memorial dedication. And two of the people that I got a chance to interview at that dedication said that if Dr. King were alive today, an issue that would be most on his mind would be the mass incarceration of African Americans. I just wanted to maybe follow up with — just wanted to get the President’s stance on that. Do you know where he stands on this issue?
MR. CARNEY: Again, this is an issue, broadly speaking, both the death penalty and broader issues in terms of crime and punishment, that the President as a state senator or senator and a candidate, as well as President, has addressed with regards to — in terms of his views on it. And he will, as you know, speak when the ceremony has been rescheduled, he’ll speak at that event.
8:00 PM UPDATE Sept. 21, 2011: The US Supreme Court has issued a temporary stay while they continue to review the case. Repeatedly Amy Goodman of Democracy Now pointed out that of the five people deciding one was Clarence Thomas, another Justice Scalia. (For a transcript of my interview with DA Spencer Lawton, who brought the original case against Troy Davis see this link: Here and Here.) Search our web page or go to for more. They are covering the process live. At the moment sirens breaking in, a lot of police arrived at prison. Protests from Berlin to US Embassy in London, Iceland, Oslo, Dublin Ireland, Paris, Washington D.C., NYC, Harlem, Jackson Georgia.

Activists have begun to gear up to fight yet another battle for Troy Davis, hoping it won’t be the last. Davis has widespread support from individuals and rights groups like Amnesty International, plus Joan Baez, former FBI Director William Sessions, former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Bob Barr, and judge William S. Sessions.

UPDATE on Davis case provided by Troy Davis supporters and family: See this story from Jen Marlowe outlining the events. On Monday, September 19th, the Georgia Board of Pardons & Parole, under Chairman James E. Donald, will decide whether to execute Troy Davis. For your part, stop them from killing this innocent man. Contact Chairman James Donald and stop the Troy Davis execution. Demand that the board pardon Troy Davis. Call and write to the board at the following address and stop this legalized lynching! Their address is: Georgia State Board of Pardons & Parole, 2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, S.E.
Suite 458, Balcony Level, East Tower, Atlanta, Georgia 30334-4909, (404) 656-5651 (press 0 for operator, then 5 for “PARDONS”).

Amnesty International has started an “events” page here.

‘The case against Troy Davis, when compared to other death penalty cases across the country, is extraordinarily weak,’ said Georgia State University Law Prof. Anne Emannuel, 9-7-2011.
Produced by Dori Smith
TRT: 29:00
Download at Pacifica’s Audioport here or at and
Music by Fritz Heede

In two weeks, on September 21, 2011, the State of Georgia plans to execute Troy Davis despite the massive international support for his campaign to prove his innocence in the murder of Georgia policeman Mark MacPhail.

Award winning filmmaker and author Jen Marlowe and Georgia State University Law Professor Anne Emanuel (bio here) join us for a discussion about the history of the case and the evidence against Davis. (We have more audio of these interviews which we are editing now. Also, you can view the film about Troy Davis by Jen Marlowe here at Amnesty International, and see action web site here at

Books: Jen Marlowe is author of Darfur Diaries, Stories of Survival,about her travels to Northern Darfur and Eastern Chad, and The Hour of Sunlight: One Palestinian’s Journey from Prisoner to Peacemaker. Her award winning films include: Darfur Diaries, Message from Home, and Rebuilding Hope, which follows three Sudanese-American young men on their first homecoming trip back to Sudan, to discover whether their homes and families survived the civil war and to build a school, drill wells and bring medical supplies to their villages in Sudan. (Books can be obtained here.) You can find her film series about Troy Davis here at Amnesty International and on youtube.

This will be the fourth time that Troy Davis is facing an execution date, points out Jen Marlowe, explaining that this time they are looking for clemency because of the doubt that exists about the case. She said: ‘The setting of the execution date actually sets into motion the clemency process. The Board of Pardons and Parole, unlike a court which is bound by procedure–they are able to make choices based on what is the ethical thing to do, what is the right thing to do. So we have a lot of hope that the Board of Pardons and parole in Georgia will see that in Troy’s case there is overwhelming doubt. And there are significant questions as to Troy Davis’ guilt. I would say more than significant questions and so there is a lot of hope that they will do the right thing and they will grant Troy clemency, which basically means mercy, and it means taking him off of death row. They can commute his sentence to life without parole in prison which certainly is not what Troy wants ultimately. He has always maintained his innocence and so he does not want to be in prison for life without parole. But of course you can eventually free a wrongfully convicted man from prison, but if he is executed you can’t free him from the grave. So we have great hope that the Board of Pardons and Parole will grant him clemency. And that’s really where all of our efforts are now, on trying to let the Board know that there are thousands and thousands of people worldwide who are watching this who are very concerned about an execution proceeding when there is so much doubt.’ Jen Marlowe

The Original Prosecution and Trial of Troy Davis was Error Prone. Police later withdrew the only physical evidence they had, a bullet which they had argued would ‘prove’ Davis was the killer. See case outlined here in press coverage over the years.

As to the individuals who prosecuted and convicted Troy Davis: Back in 2007 we spoke with the original prosecutor in the Davis case, and asked him whether or not he had conducted an investigation into Sylvester Redd Coles, who has become a person of suspicion to many who have been studying the case. Coles was at the scene of the murder, and had a gun of the same caliber as the one used to kill Officer McPhail. Yet Spencer Lawton told Talk Nation Radio that the fact that his attorney “allowed” him to go to the police station alone to discuss the murder on the day afterward, indicates his innocence. But did Coles have his attorney present when he went to the station or didn’t he? Jen Marlowe says he did, and she also points out that Coles should have been investigated more fully because in his culture being a snitch is thought of as something you just don’t do. Coles went to the police and fingered Troy Davis. Why? Why didn’t this unusual behavior for someone like Coles send up a red flag for police and DA Lawton?

The Innocence Project mentions these issues in their brief written on behalf of Troy Davis, see this PDF.

Over the years that this case has been discussed legal analysts and rights activists have pointed out that this kind of behavior has come up before in law. In a friend of the court brief, The Innocence Project PDF file cites the case of Kyles v Whitley, where the ‘U.S. Supreme Court reversed a defendant’s capital murder conviction because evidence withheld by the prosecution about the state’s informant strongly suggested the informant committed the crime’. They describe Coles as the “likely killer” and say he had the most to gain and state: “The primary reason that Troy Davis became a suspect in Officer MacPhail’s murder was Sylvester Coles. The day after the shooting, Coles approached the police with his lawyer in tow and implicated Troy Davis. Tr. vol. IV at 915-18, 949. Coles had the most to gain by doing so–he was the most obvious suspect in both the assault on Larry Young and subsequent shooting. Affidavits from new witnesses and from persons who have since heard Coles confess make clear that Coles is the likely killer of Officer MacPhail.”

They also argue that, “Ten eyewitnesses and two informants testified against Troy Davis at trial. An astonishing nine of those twelve have revealed in subsequent affidavits that their testimony was false or inaccurate. These recantations have cast light on the improper procedures used by police to secure eyewitness identifications and testimony against Troy Davis, and the personal motivations of the informants to fabricate his alleged confessions.”

Also, Jen Marlowe discusses other comments made by Spencer Lawton who has claimed that none of the witnesses had tried to (‘back up” at trial) recant earlier. Lawton has indicated that this seemed to him to indicate they were not credible in their recanting of testimony. Marlowe further clarifies the story of a witness who did try to correct the record during the trial. (We also mention that we found a recording of an appeal hearing where the Assistant DA David Lock, refers to witnesses who had tried to recant at trial: “There were some witnesses that backed up a little bit at trial”).

Attorney Anne Emanuel also joined us, she teaches Criminal Law and Capital Punishment law at Georgia State University school of law, and is author of a 2006 report on the death penalty in Georgia. She has said “a verdict that is not ironclad is not good enough to support a death penalty” and she is familiar with the Troy Davis Case.

Law Professor Anne Emanuel of Georgia State University, served as Chair of Georgia’s ABA Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Committee. The work culminated in the publication of Evaluating Fairness and Accuracy in State Death Penalty Systems, The Georgia Death Penalty Assessment Report. Also, from 2004-06, she served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the College of Law. (You can obtain a copy of the report here, scroll down the page to their files on the report which include an Executive Summary and Full Report link.)

Date: Wednesday, September 7, 2011, 4:57 AM
Dear friends,

An execution warrant for Troy Davis has just been issued tonight. His execution is scheduled to take place on September 21.
We have known that an execution date for Troy was inevitable. An execution, however, is not. The Georgia Board of Pardons & Parole can still prevent this execution by granting clemency. We expect that a clemency hearing will be held in the days prior to the execution date and we remain hopeful that the board will do the right thing and grant Troy clemency.
Troy has been on death row for 20 years for the 1989 murder of police officer Mark MacPhail. Since his conviction, the case against him has completely fallen apart. There is no physical evidence linking Troy to the murder, 7/9 eyewitnesses have recanted or contradicted their testimony, and 1 of the remaining witnesses has been implicated as the actual shooter. There are scores of unresolved questions about what actually happened the night of the murder. Only one thing in Troy’s case is crystal clear: there is overwhelming doubt. And, in the words of GSU law professor Anne Emanuel, “A verdict that is not ironclad is not good enough to support a death penalty.”
For a more complete explanation of what exactly we mean when we say, “there’s too much doubt,” please watch (and circulate) this video series, examining the case in-depth.

What you can do:

Sign the petition to the Georgia authorities asking them to grant Troy clemency and encourage others to do the same.

Attorneys, law professors: endorse a sign-on letter from legal professionals to the GA Board of Pardons & Parole. (non-lawyers: encourage friends who are legal professionals to endorse.)

Members of the clergy (all faiths): endorse a clergy sign-on letter to the GA Board of Pardons & Parole (non-clergy: encourage friends in the clergy to endorse.)

Work on organizing an event for the International Day of Solidarity for Troy Davis. (check back tomorrow at for the exact date.)

As GSU Law Professor Russ Covey said, “The state of Georgia does not have to execute Troy Davis, and it should not execute Troy Davis.”

For the sake of justice, we can and must act now. Please check to keep up with latest developments.

In solidarity,
Jen Marlowe

Jen Marlowe, A circle of prayer for Troy Davis and the country that would kill him here, here and here.

Published on Wednesday, September 21, 2011 by Colorlines
A Circle of Prayer for Troy Davis—and the Country That Would Kill Him
by Jen Marlowe

Motivational posters line the hallways en route to the visitation room. Images of rock climbers, an eagle soaring over clouds, a collection of hands of all pigmentation on a basketball, each with an inspirational one-word message: LEADERSHIP, OPPORTUNITY, ACHIEVEMENT, FOCUS, TEAMWORK.

Opportunity? Achievement? The irony was outrageous. The hallway was in the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison and I was walking down it with the Davis family en route to visit death row inmate Troy Davis.

Though I had been corresponding with Troy for years via letters and phone, December 2009 was my first visit. I knew I would not have the opportunity to be sitting in the same room as Troy; contact visits had been taken away from death row inmates a few months earlier. Instead, I spoke to Troy through a black iron grate, alongside his mother, sisters and teen-aged nephew. At the end of every visit, the Davis family formed a prayer circle, holding hands, Troy leading a prayer thanking God for their blessings and praying for the strength to continue their quest for justice.

With contact visits revoked, Troy could no longer hold hands with the rest of his family. Instead, he pressed his hands flat against the black iron grating. His family and I formed a semi-circle. Troy’s mother pressed her hand on the opposite side of the grate as Troy’s right palm, and his nephew did the same on the left. Everyone bowed their heads, closed their eyes and offered prayers. I couldn’t help but take a peek. Troy looked like a silhouette through the dense iron grill, his head bowed, his hands pressed against the grate, with his mother and nephew’s hands pressed just as firmly on the other side, finding a way, despite the steel and bars, to maintain their circle of prayer.

Georgia is preparing to kill Troy Davis at 7 p.m. tonight. He was sentenced to death in 1991 for the murder of off-duty police officer Mark Allen MacPhail, based largely on eyewitness testimony. In the intervening years, seven out of the nine eyewitnesses have either recanted or contradicted their trial testimony and people ranging from Desmond Tutu to former Georgia Republican Rep. Bob Barr have urged the state not to go through with the dubious execution. But the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Parole refused to grant clemency yesterday.

Troy has refused his last meal, opting to fast and pray. If the state carries out its plans, he will be strapped to a gurney. Needles will be thrust into his arms, so that three different lethal injection drugs will flow through his veins. If there is no last minute intervention, Troy will die.

Tonight’s expected execution of Troy Davis brings inconceivable pain and loss to his family and friends. But it should also bring deep self-probing to us as a country, forcing us to ask ourselves agonizing questions: How can our system of justice be comfortable executing a man despite such substantive doubts as to his guilt? How can our country possibly justify taking an unarmed, captive human being, and killing that human being? Who are we as a people if we, sanctioned by the state, intentionally and with premeditation wrack a family with grief?

I will be outside the prison as the hours and minutes tick towards 7 p.m., joining with hundreds of others, including Troy’s family, in prayerful protest. I will be thinking of the words that Troy asked my colleague, Wende Gozan-Brown of Amnesty International, to share when we visited him this morning:

“The struggle for justice doesn’t end with me. This struggle is for all the Troy Davis’s who came before me and all the ones who will come after me. I’m in good spirits and I’m prayerful and at peace. But I will not stop fighting until I’ve taken my last breath.”

As 7 p.m. approaches, I do not intend to picture Troy strapped onto a gurney. Instead, I will focus on the image which has been seared into my brain since December 2009:

Troy standing in silhouette, arms outstretched and palms pressed against the iron grating. His mother’s hand pressed against his on one side, his nephew’s on the other, the rest of the family holding hands in between as he leads a circle of prayer, thanking God for the blessings they have received, and asking for the strength to continue the struggle for justice.
© 2011 Colorlines