by Ashok Kumar
Having lived away from the US and in the UK for the last few years I guess it’s easy to forget how the violence of capital punishment in the US is so intertwined to the history of occupation and subjugation by the majority culture against the poor and the black. The death penalty is still fiercely defended by a large majority of these god-fearing people, so much so that at a recent Republican debate the loudest cheers of the night came after Texas Governor Rick Perry was asked about the 234 (mostly black) inmates that he executed in his years in office. Even Obama supports the death penalty (especially for pedophiles).
The case of Troy Davis was nothing short of a legal lynching. Back in 1989 nine people testified that they saw Troy Davis kill Officer Mark MacPhail, seven have since recanted and there is no other evidence to suggest that Davis was even at the scene of the crime. In addition, three jurors have signed legal affidavits stating that in light of developments they would not have found Troy Davis guilty. Also, another person came forward to testify that another man, Sylvester “Redd” Coles, bragged after the shooting. Sylvester “Redd” Coles also happens to be one of the two remaining witnesses to claim Davis was the perpetrator. So, just so we’re all clear: seven of the nine witnesses recanted, one of the remaining witnesses publicly admitted to committing the crime, there is no physical evidence tying Davis to the scene of the crime, jurors have said they would have decided differently in light of subsequent information, and Troy Davis has always maintained his innocence, even until his murder at the hands of the state. A state that offered him nothing but poverty and treated him with racism and violence from the day he was born to his tragic death.
It is the shear brutality of the killing that left many grasping to understand what kind of nation we’d become. Hours before he was expected to be killed, thousands of people in the US from across the political spectrum began posting, tweeting and blogging using words often reserved for the left (“racist”, “murder”, “legalized lynching”), with conservative politicians, religious figures and prison wardens stating that there was just “too much doubt” in Davis’ case to follow through with the execution. Sure, the American government is responsible for the deaths of millions around the world and the daily suffering of people with similar complexion in the US, but the Davis case, with its flimsy two witnesses and lack of any other evidence, ripped the shell off to expose the entire racist, criminal justice system to millions of people around the world.
The death penalty follows a tradition of lynch mob “justice” in the US. Troy’s case in 1989 exposed the worst fear among white people. Davis was poor, black and stood accused of killing a white cop in the South, nothing less than the death penalty would suffice. On the other side of the country, Johannes Mehserle, a white cop who was videoed pinning Oscar Grant to the ground as he shot him in the back, walked out with less then one year in prison.
We must also remember the lack of any accused perpetrator, let alone convictions, for the cops responsible for Mark Duggan, Smiley Culture, or the murders of over 300 black men in custody in the UK in the last 12 years. It makes me realize that my old home and new home aren’t actually that different.
On Wednesday at 11:08pm a man was lynched and he had a message before he died, lets never forget it:
“This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this unjust system city by city, state by state and country by country.”