On Wednesday, September 21, 2011, the state of Georgia murdered Troy Davis. The state will reference this murder using terms like “capital punishment,” “the death penalty,” and “ultimate justice.” But make no mistake about it, they are explicitly referring to state sanctioned murder. And the state of Georgia cares so much about what Andrew Cohen describes as “its interest in the finality of its capital judgments,” that it is eagerly willing to disregard “the accuracy of its capital verdicts.”
And the accuracy of the capital verdict against Troy Davis can very much so be called into question.
In August 1991, Troy Davis was convicted on charges of killing a Savannah, Georgia police officer during an altercation that occurred in August 1989.
Davis, then 20, was leaving a house party in Savannah with his teenaged friend, Darrell Collins, when a car drove past. Its passengers leaned out the windows and shouted obscenities. In response, an unknown perp fired a gunshot into the car, injuring a man named Michael Cooper. The vehicle sped off, and Davis and Collins left the scene en route to a downtown pool hall.
Outside, they came across Sylvester “Redd” Coles, who was involved in a dispute over a beer with a homeless man named Larry Young. It was now around 1 a.m., and Coles and Young wandered into a Burger King parking lot, continuing their argument. Curious to see what would happen, Davis and Collins followed. Tensions mounted, and someone pistol-whipped Young, whose head began to bleed. An off-duty police officer named Mark Allen MacPhail, who worked security at a nearby bus stop, noticed the commotion and intervened. Then, three shots were fired at the officer. One hit him in the face; another pierced his left lung.
Troy Davis was sentenced to death.