Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dr. Wilmer Leon: In the Case of Troy Davis, the Price of Justice was Just Too High

by Dr. Wilmer Leon, Howard University

When protecting the systems in a society becomes more important than the people the systems are designed to protect, that society is in great peril.

Troy Davis languished on Georgia’s Death Row for four additional hours until the stay of execution he hoped and prayed for was denied by the U.S. Supreme Court. At 11:08 pm EST Troy Davis was executed for the murder of Officer Mark MacPhail even though recent evidence indicated that he may not have committed the murder. Members of the Georgia Supreme Court, a Butts County Superior Court judge, the Georgia Pardons Board, prosecutors and others were more concerned with conviction rates and reputations than justice. They wanted “justice” at any cost but many in this country and around the world demonstrated because the price that was paid was too high.

The MacPhail family wants, needs, and deserves justice. The execution of Troy Davis when so much exculpatory evidence has come to light will only provide a short period of satisfaction. At some point in time, the reality that another innocent life has been taken (the first being Officer MacPhail) coupled with the reality that the actual murderer is alive, well, and walking the streets of Butts County, GA will begin to weigh heavy on all of their hearts.

The question is very simple, once a person has been convicted and sentenced to death, if evidence is presented that destroys the prosecutions case, should that individual be executed? No! Look at it this way, since 7 of the 9 prosecutions witnesses have recanted their eye-witness testimony the prosecution would not be able to get the conviction if the case were retried today. If the prosecution could not win this case today; why did Troy Davis loose his life?

This calls into question the validity of “eye-witness” testimony, police investigatory practices, and many of the assumptions that Americans have used to based their faith in the judicial process. The ugly reality that this case forces many Americans to grapple with is, if the Troy Davis case has fallen apart; how many other cases are called into question and how many innocent people have been executed?

This should be a clarion call to all those citizens of conscience in Georgia. All of those elected officials who touched this case and elected to weigh in on the wrong side of history should be defeated in their next elections. Nationally, this should beg the questions, what type of nation are we? What do we really stand for? Do we execute human beings just because we can, even when more than reasonable doubt has now been presented? Carrying out a questionable and tainted death sentence actually damages the “system” that these officials claim to hold so neat and dear.

In the last Republican Presidential debate Gov. Rick Perry of Texas said he sleeps well every night even though he has signed the death warrants of 234 death row inmates. He stated, "I've never struggled with that at all…The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process in place of which -- when someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing, they go through an appellate process, they go up to the Supreme Court of the United States, if that's required." The problem with Perry’s sense of security is that since 1994 44 innocent people have been exonerated and released from Texas prisons based upon DNA evidence that was not available or admitted at trial. Those who have been executed don’t get a retrial, do over, or exoneration.

This is class warfare. In America, the poor and the ignorant got to jail while as the late Gil Scott-Heron said “the rich go to San Clemente.”

Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Wilmer Leon,” and a Teaching Associate in the Department of Political Science at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Go to or email:

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WizardG said...

It's amazing that in the glaring reality of an overly racist country where the whites own everything and control everything including the "blacks" etc. who control things. It is amazing that intelligent "black" people still use the term "We" when they talk about the system and this country. The societal imbalance of this country stands out like a sore thumb and we "blacks" are shot down like wild animals on a hunt. Our children are getting the worst education and many of them are filling the prisons or joining the white oriented military service. What makes "blacks" think that there is justice or equality enough to say "we"? There's no "we" in USA..There is the Anglo-elite and their psycho minions of racists in denial, and then there is 'us' who are too injured and kept in that condition to realize that there is no real or righteous social system here.There never has been and never will be.

Sure, some of you will thrive but the majority of "blacks" will suffer pains you may never know. We have no way to network. Our attempts at unification are blocked on every level. We are made to fight and even kill each other and our good leaders are either threatened, jailed or murdered. Our economic strength is null and without some kind of strength we and all who resemble us are left hanging in the wind. We are no longer told to remember our place verbally we are shown to do so in every way imaginable! In the long-run the murder of Mr. Davis was intended to remind us of our place.

Furthermore.Why would "blacks" concentrate themselves in Georgia anyway? Pay attention! If we concentrate ourselves in one place it's much easier for them to attack and destroy us, and make no mistake they can and the will! "Blacks" are concentrated in their own African nations yet they still cannot protect themselves from the whites who have been attacking them since before our ancestors were stolen! Most whites in this country are quite at ease with the status quo and as long as they rule they always will be.

Anonymous said...

I was very sad to see that Troy Davis was kill. In following his case I was impressed by the number of people who supported the feeling that he should be granted a new trial; President Carter, Senators, congressmen & women, the heads of organizations and thousands of citizens -- but with all this support, it was not enough to penetrate the culture of the South & Georgia in particular. I believe that in the end the Troy Davis request for a new trial boiled down to the race of those involved. My prayers go out to both families. I cannot believe in light of all the publicity, the officer's family has not questioned among themselves or wondered if Troy actually pulled the triger. Him being on the scene was probably enough for them to feel he should be punished--but death? They are going to have to live with the fact that at least partly due to their rigidness the real killer of their son is free,living and walking among them.

Anonymous said...

The death penalty. The death penalty has NEVER deterred a crime. The death penalty has never saved a life, it has only taken a life. Those that believe in it, do not believe in our justice system. It scares them. Why does society believe it is okay to execute someone twenty years after an offense has been committed. Some would like to execute someone immediately following an accusation of an offense. An individual is put in prison as punishment, not for punishment. Some fall on the excuse of protecting society as a basis for the death penalty. Then the death penalty needs to be in place for everyone that is given a prison sentence. Remember, for the protection of society. A law enforcement officer is governed by the rules of deadly force in the use of his weapon (gun). But the death penalty is governed by the quilm of society. Is that not how a black life was treated less than a 100 years ago. So how far have we truely come as a civilized society? How can a society accept a human being, be put to death with NO physical evidence at all?