'I will one day be announcing I am Troy Davis and I am free!'


This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of Amnesty International. To mark this, Amnesty, in association with The Irish Times, will profile a prisoner each month.

VIRGINIA DAVIS of Savannah, Georgia, in the United States, went for a nap on Tuesday a week ago. Her fondest wish would have been to see her son, Troy, a free man again.

But Troy heard the news of his mother’s passing in the prison where he has been held on Death Row for almost 20 years.

One summer night in Savannah in August 1989, Troy was playing pool with some friends when he heard shouting from the car park outside.

A homeless man was being assaulted by another man who was trying to steal his beer. Troy tried to intervene.

Mark MacPhail, an off-duty police officer, was working as a security guard nearby and noticed the commotion.

He ran to the car park, where he was shot dead.

Within 24 hours, the man who had attacked the homeless man hired a prominent lawyer, went to the police and claimed he’d seen Troy shoot Officer MacPhail.

The murder weapon was never found, nor was there any DNA evidence.

Of the nine witnesses who identified Troy as the killer at his trial, seven have since withdrawn their statements.

A witness who signed a police statement declaring that Troy was the gunman, later admitted, “I did not read it because I cannot read.”

Another said that the police threatened him and told him unless he testified he would “go to jail for a long time and I would be lucky if I ever got out, especially because a police officer got killed . . .

“I was only 16 and was so scared of going to jail.”

Despite the doubts over his case, the state of Georgia has tried to execute Troy three times.

In 2007, he was spared on less than 24 hours’ notice.

The second time, in September 2008, the hearse for his remains was waiting outside when he was spared – less than two hours from a lethal injection.

Last year Troy’s sister, Martina, came to Ireland to talk about her brother’s fight to prove his innocence. She spoke of the strength he draws from his supporters around the world.

These include former US president Jimmy Carter, former FBI director William Sessions, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Pope Benedict XVI and the European Parliament.

Troy Davis should not be executed.

Nor should the 3,200 men and women awaiting execution in the US, one of the world’s top five death-penalty states alongside China, Iran, North Korea and Yemen.

In a letter to his supporters after the most recent stay of execution, Troy wrote, “There are so many more Troy Davises. 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.

“I can’t wait to stand with you, no matter if that is in physical or spiritual form.

“I will one day be announcing, “I am Troy Davis and I am free!”

* Help save the life of Troy Davis. Please write immediately, calling for the authorities in the US state of Georgia to take all steps necessary to ensure that Troy Anthony Davis does not face execution, to His Excellency, the US ambassador to Ireland, Mr Daniel M Rooney, Embassy of the United States, 42 Elgin Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4. Or log on to amnesty.ie and take action online.