The Troy Davis Case Proves the Death Penalty Has Failed Us

After the Troy Davis execution we have to keep searching for the truth about his case and the use of the death penalty in Georgia.

A little piece of me died when I heard that the state of Georgia had taken the life of Troy Davis, on death row since 1989 in the murder of Savannah police officer, Mark MacPhail. 

By now you know the case, including the recanted testimony from witnesses and the doubts that were cast about how the case was prosecuted. Even longtime Georgia political foes were against this execution, including former Congressman Bob Barr and former President Jimmy Carter. It’s that cloud of doubt in this case that breaks my heart as I grieve for both the Davis and the MacPhail families.

Now if you assume that I’m just another liberal against the death penalty, you’d be dead wrong and the pun is intended. I believe that there are some people on this earth who are just plain evil and they don’t deserve to live. I’m talking about the kind of murderers who have no respect for life and would kill repeatedly every chance they got.

A good example is Charles Manson who was convicted in the killings of 11 innocent people in California back in August of 1969. He was sentenced to death, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison by the California Supreme Court in 1972, when they abolished the death penalty. So Manson sits in prison now at the age of 76, still spouting hate and no one doubts that he would go on another murderous crime spree if he ever got out of prison.

Read about the Manson case if you’ve forgotten about him: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Manson

You might say, well Troy Davis was convicted of killing a police officer and that’s an automatic death sentence. The only problem with that argument is a recent case in Atlanta that we are all too familiar with, a young man by the name of Brian Nichols. In March of 2005, Nichols was facing a certain prison term for raping his ex girl friend. When he saw he was losing the case he went berserk in the Fulton County Courthouse. He beat a prison guard senseless, took her gun and then murdered a judge and a court reporter in one of the courtrooms. As he was escaping from the building, he murdered a sheriff’s deputy in the street and later that night he murdered a federal agent that he encountered by chance. He was captured after he surrendered at the apartment of a young woman that he had kidnapped and taken hostage.

Nichols was charged with 54 crimes and offenses, including the four murders. Three and a half years later, a jury found him guilty on all charges. But Nichols agreed to a last minute deal by pleading guilty and the judge gave him consecutive life sentences, meaning he will spend the rest of his life in prison. There was never any doubt that he had committed all of those terrible crimes, but his life was spared.

Here's a link to the Brian Nichols case: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Nichols

Brian Nichols and Charles Manson are the kind of dangerous criminals that the death penalty law is supposed to protect us from. But if we’re not going to execute criminals who’ve killed several people, then how can we automatically agree to execute anyone who’s committed far fewer crimes? 

How can the murder of one police officer mean the death penalty, while the killings of a judge, a court reporter, a sheriff’s deputy and a federal agent result in a life sentence? All five of these murder victims were sworn to uphold of the law in the same state, Georgia!

That brings us back to Troy Davis who was executed by lethal injection around 11:10pm on September 21, 2011. The State Parole Board refused to commute his sentence, despite serious doubts about his guilt that were raised by his attorneys. A reporter who witnessed the execution, Rhonda Cook of the AJC, gave us this chilling account of Davis’ final moments.

“Warden Carl Humphrey … asked Davis if he has any final words.  Yes, the condemned man said and he raised his head so he could look at Mark MacPhail Jr., who was an infant when his father was murdered, and William MacPhail, the dead officer’s brother.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” Davis said.

Mark MacPhail, who was leaning forward, and his uncle did not move. They stared at the man who killed their loved one.

“I did not personally kill your son, father and brother,” Davis said. “I am innocent. “

He asked his family and friends to continue to search for the truth. And to the prison officials he said,

“May God have mercy on your souls. May God bless your souls.”

He then lowered his head. He turned down an offer for a prayer. Within minutes, Troy Anthony Davis slipped out of consciousness and in 14 minutes he was dead.


The execution of Troy Davis has left many of us with an empty feeling. But the lives of Davis and Mark MacPhail must not be in vain. We must learn from this painful case to decide exactly how the death sentence should be given out by the courts. We can argue about Davis’ guilt or innocence forever, but there are still so many unanswered questions. Why did Davis receive the death penalty at all? Was it only because he clung to his innocence and refused to say he that he killed Macphail? If Davis had pled guilty, would he have gotten a life sentence from the court like many others before him? If admitting guilt is a big factor in determining who gets executed in Georgia, then what’s the point of the death penalty? As Troy Davis said in his final moments, “keep searching for the truth”!

Below is link to a 2008 case when the Georgia Parole Board commuted a man’s death sentence.


This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Zadi Maynard September 24, 2011 at 06:42 PM
Thank you Ray for an excellent and thoughtful piece. A travesty of justice in both Georgia and the United States of America at which the world looked on in horror. May Mr. Davis' family find solace in the collective gasp and heartbreak that took place when we found the execution would proceed. Our hearts broke in that moment and I'm sure we all resolved that this should never ever happen again. Let us begin the work.
Lou Ann Riggers Phillips September 24, 2011 at 11:32 PM
Ray, you have asked a question that deserves an answer. Why did Davis receive the death penalty at all ? How can a judicial system fairly and equitably administer the death penalty, when the criteria is ambiquous. The cases you presented clearly show the disparity of the Davis case. Thank you for this thoughtful journalistic piece
Ray Metoyer September 25, 2011 at 12:29 AM
Thank you Zadi for your kind words!
Ray Metoyer September 25, 2011 at 12:42 AM
Thank you Lou Ann and Zadi for feeling our collective pain. I knew that in their arrogance Georgia would execute Troy Davis, because they don't want to admit that they made a mistake in his prosecution. But I never did understand the death penalty sentence-- and I mean no disrespect to police officers. But Officer Macphail was working off-duty when he was killed and the lives of off duty police officers are no more valuable than average citizens like you and me. Macphail was working essentialy as a security guard.. and when was the last time someone got the death penalty for killing a security guard? I ask that question without even considering the fact that Davis always insisted he was innocent!
Yolande M. Minor September 25, 2011 at 02:17 AM
Mr. Metoyer, Thank you for reporting what it was like in the death chambers within the moments he died. On his death bead, Why would a man denounce the murder that others claim he performed? The picture is grimm and ugly. It is truly turning my stomach and wrendged with Rage. I am crying for a man innocently killed. Where do we go from here?
Ray Metoyer September 25, 2011 at 02:42 AM
Yolande thank you for commenting. There is an old school assumption that someone will admit their guilt as they are about to be executed. I'm not sure I believe that of everyone on death row, because some people are habitual liars. That's what the Macphail family said about Troy Davis; that he'd been lying so long that he believed it himself. I don't think the family of the dead officer is objective enough to have an opinion on Davis' innocence or guilt. They wanted someone to pay for the murder, and they believe Davis was guilty, even though none of them were witnesses to the murder. As for what we do now, I say we must insist on an independent investigation of the case, the prosecution and the court's decision to give Davis the death penalty. We need to demand that these questions are answered!
Yolande M. Minor September 26, 2011 at 01:09 PM
Mr. Metoyer, Thank you for reporting what it was like in the death chambers within the moments he died. On his death bed, Why would a man denounce the murder that others claim he performed? The picture is grimm and ugly. It is truly turning my stomach and wrendged with Rage. I am crying for a man innocently killed, right now. Read more at, .http://www.ajc.com/news/watching-an-execution-ajc-1186266.html Where do we go from here?
Reality & Logic September 26, 2011 at 04:33 PM
I know for a fact that Officer McPhail's blood was found on Davis' jeans. There is no doubt that Davis is guilty of murdering McPhail. If you want to oppose the death penalty, fine. But don't try to say that Davis is not guilty. There is much evidence that proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that he's guilty. He's a disgusting puke who is also a murderer.
Reality & Logic September 26, 2011 at 04:36 PM
Davis is not innocent. I know for a fact that Officer MacPhail's blood was found on Davis' jeans. There is no doubt that Davis is guilty of murdering MacPhail. If you want to oppose the death penalty, fine. But don't try to say that Davis is not guilty. There is much evidence that proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that he's guilty. He's a disgusting puke who is also a murderer.
Ray Metoyer September 26, 2011 at 04:44 PM
@FransSusan-- I don't think you read my column. I did not argue whether or not Troy Davis is guilty or innocent. I say there are enough doubts to warrant a second look. But the larger issue here is why Davis received the death penalty in the first place? Even if you assume he's guilty as you have, you must realize that there are people who've committed far worse crimes, and multiple murders, who did not get the death penalty in Georgia. If you're going to criticize what I wrote, at least take the time to read it; that's all I ask.
Reality & Logic September 26, 2011 at 05:10 PM
There is enough evidence that Davis is guilty, and it was proven without doubt. MacPhail's blood on Davis' jeans. Enough evidence to dispell any doubt. I agree that there are many who deserve the death penalty but didn't get it, and Nichols is certainly a perfect example of that. Charles Manson is another. I could name many! But just because Nichols was NOT sentenced to death does not mean that Davis should, therefore, not get the death penalty. They all three deserve to be put to death for murdering innocent people. MacPhail was an off-duty policeman trying to protect a homeless black man who was being pistol whipped by Davis. As far as I'm concerned, Davis should be sentenced to death just for pistol whipping an innocent man. Imagine that scene...imagine the terror...that innocent homeless man lying on the ground being savagely beaten by Troy Davis with a gun, fearing for his life! If MacPhail had not stopped that, the homeless man would probably be dead. MacPhail gave his life for the life of a fellow human being. Davis is guilty! Without a doubt. He deserved to die!
Ray Metoyer September 26, 2011 at 06:12 PM
FransSusan-- Thank you for reading the blog post this time! You will also notice that I spent little time dwelling on the Davis case specifics-- I merely said there still are many doubts. I'll let you argue with yourself about his guilt or innocence. However I must tell you that Davis was convicted solely on the basis of eyewitnesses-- and 7 of the 9 later changed their testimony. I've also reviewed the case and found NO mention of blood on Davis' jeans as part of the prosecution. Maybe that's a rumor you heard, but it is NOT TRUE! If you read the whole blog-- you will also see that I'm not against the death penalty at all-- as you previously indicated. I do believe that there are some very dangerous people who deserve to die. But my issue is with how the death penalty is used and enforced in this country. I am confident that if Troy Davis had confessed to the crime, guilty or not, he would have been given a life sentence. It's happened with Nichols and many other murderers who got a life sentence. That's why I believe the death penalty has failed us and executions are a sham. Let me just add this, most of the people on death row nationwide, are poor people who had an ill-prepared court-appointed attorney to represent them. If you were innocent, and accused of a crime, would you want your life in the hands of an overworked, poorly prepared, court-appointed attorney? I think not; and remember innocent people get accused of crimes every day!
Ray Metoyer September 27, 2011 at 04:31 AM
I agree that there is always a criminal element that get's bolder and bolder. The actions of those crooks you write about-- should be candidates for a death penalty-- but since the crime is black on black-- you never know what their sentence will be. Blacks on death row are usually there for killing whites. The murderers of black victims rarely get the death penalty; but that's a whole different conversation. We in OUR community need to stop protecting the thugs who hide amongst us. We can't ignore signs of criminal activity; we have to complain to police-- band together in our neighborhoods and demand better protection. But it starts with us! I also live in Southwest Atlanta, not far from where this happened and overall it is a tremendous community. But I won't stand by and watch the thugs drive by looking for victims to rip off. I follow suspicious cars and I take pictures. Everybody has a camera phone-- It's time to use them. We gotta fight back! But no, the death penalty is just a sham-- and it is not a deterrent to crime. But if we're going to have death sentence, we have to have guidelines for how it will be issued, and then it should be reviewed by higher courts to make sure it was the correct sentence. I'm still not convinced that the death sentence was the correct punishment for Troy Davis-- if he was guilty. That's why i plan to keep digging on this case.
Jeanette Foreman September 27, 2011 at 06:02 AM
What an excellent article Ray. We badly need this kind of thoughtful analysis and public dialogue about this subject. I am very glad to understand your position about continuing to inquire into the standards and criteria for the use of the death penalty and urging others to challenge the courts, Governor, parol board and legislature.. If you have not read Michelle Alexander's book, The New Jim Crow, please do so. In a well researched, scholarly,but very readable way, she proves out the extreme institutionalized racism in the whole criminal justice system. I urge that you expose your readers to some of the things she says. In my mind the death penalty is just on aspect of the atrocities . It is just as horrible that 1/3 of all black men between age 18 and 35 are either in prison, parole or probation- and most for low level small time drug possession. Perhaps, in the name of Troy Davis, we can raise our energy and voices to this bigger picture that is killing our people's spirit- a death of a different sort.Id like to see an ongoing inquiry and community forum on this.
Yolande M. Minor September 27, 2011 at 12:54 PM
I agree Mr. Metoyer, The Death Penalty has failed us. It is not stopping blacks from killing each other everyday. Two people were killed in our community on Sunday. Nikita Thomas, a 9 year veteran of the APD 911 operational center and her boyfriend were killed in a carjacking shooting and crash with a MARTA bus. Her 13 year old son sustained injuries and was taken to Grady Hospital. The crash happened at the intersection of Barge and Campbellton roads in southwest Atlanta. Several Marta customers are recovering from their injuries. Atlanta police detectives said it all started when someone opened fire on the victims during a robbery. .Then, the SUV crashed several blocks away. after hitting a MARTA bus head-on. The deterrent of the Death Penalty is not stopping anything. Blacks are killing Blacks without fear of the death penalty. How can this vicious cycle stop before you or I are next? This scares me to death because I was just at the corner of Campbellton Rd. and Barge Rd, last week. I want to see effective change or are we too late?
Yolande M. Minor September 27, 2011 at 01:26 PM
Mrs. Foreman, I agree with you 100 %. Also, I think we need to discuss the rampant drug market in our community. I see crack bags and small size liquour bottles littering the West End and Campbellton Rd. daily. The recent discussion of a vote on a referendum on Sunday Alcohol sales in Fulton County will probably be passed by our citizens: http://cascade.patch.com/articles/atlantans-could-vote-on-sunday-alcohol-sales-ban-2. However, illegal drugs and alcohol are death holds hour by hour within our communtiy. Furthermore, the lack of proper education, parenting skills, and job training/ opportunties are the death penalty of our community. Each church and civic organization, should be "out the door" speaking to our community. Also, offering, outdoor Voter Registration is a high priority at this time.
Yolande M. Minor September 28, 2011 at 02:29 AM
Thought for the day of who receives the dealth penalty. Will Michael Jackson's doctor, Dr. Conrad Murray receive the dealth penalty for giving Michael an overdose of a sedative used in operation rooms or will he remain in society to continue his death sentence on others? Dr. Murray is a high class drug dealer who sold Michael drugs, and now his Defense Team state that Jackson killed himself with drugs. Here again is black on black crime. The dealth penalty is not offered, Why? However, Troy Davis is executed!!!
Ray Metoyer September 28, 2011 at 12:45 PM
Yolande, giving that doctor the death penalty in Michael Jackson's death wouldn't even be a remote possibility. The death penalty is usually given in cases of capital murder, like when someone is killed during a robbery, rape, burglary and so on. The murder of a police officer is also considered a capital murder. The key is we're talking about violent deaths, where the victims are forced to suffer. No doctor, black or white would ever be accused of murder in a case like this, unless there was proof that he had done it on purpose to kill Michael Jackson. They might also have to show that the doctor had done it before, on purpose, to kill other patients. It's not the same kind of murder case. Even if the doctor escapes the murder charge, he'll probably lose his medical license.
Yolande M. Minor September 28, 2011 at 12:58 PM
Mr. Metoyer, I agree with what you are saying, I am just so angry that we have complete injustice in our justice system !!!
Ray Metoyer September 28, 2011 at 03:34 PM
Yes, but let's don't cloud the issue with cases that aren't relevant to the death penalty and the judicial injustice that targets the poor and blacks and other minorities.
Ed Henderson October 01, 2011 at 08:43 PM
Go Ray, You are a one man crusade for justice, here and abroad. It's amazing what one person can accomplish sitting in his house with a laptop and his "house slippers" on!
Ray Metoyer October 01, 2011 at 11:54 PM
Ahhh Ed or Edwin or whoever you are; I keep hoping when I see you've made a post that maybe this time you will say something meaningful or even close to intelligent. But once again you missed your chance. Well at least you're consistent--- consistently irrelevant! I got your "house slippers"! Instead of always trying to make a pitiful, weak attack on me, why don't you try to comment on the issue the rest of us are discussing? See if you can do that, the next time your mother lets you use her computer!
Edwin Henderson October 03, 2011 at 03:49 PM
The most most relevant thing here is your credibility. You constantly challenge the statements of other posters as though you are a part of the judicial and the law enforcement system in this case. We know that you are neither. You say that you have "reviewed" this case. We too can google and read up on this case from the comfort of our family rooms. Yes, I question your statements and motives because I am aware that, many, in the hard hit journalism field are doing everything that they can in order to stay relevant. Yes, my mother has an impact in my life and she told me "people are always trying to reinvent themselves".
Ray Metoyer October 04, 2011 at 12:38 AM
Edwin-- I research and write articles based on my experience and ability to put facts together. FYI, all journalists who reviewed the Davis case have poured through the ONLINE records. You don't have to visit the courthouse anymore. I started looking at this again in July of 2010 when Davis was back in the news as he tried get a new trial and his appeal went all the way to the US Supreme Court. I started collecting information then and NO it wasn't as simple as doing a Google search. Yes, I reviewed it-- but no "house slippers" were involved! But you've attacked me since day one, and now you try to sit as judge and jury over my "credibility". Your opinion of me is irrelevant to this issue or the facts I've presented here. If you don't like something I wrote, then by all means say why. But instead you simply see that I posted something, and start your personal attacks. Today you only question whether I "reviewed" the case, because you have nothing else. As for challenging posters, I'm pretty sure you'd do the same thing if you had a blog. My only "motive" is write a factual, compelling blog. I can easily defend my conclusions because I do a lot of research before I write anything. I'm not a lawyer, but I've covered many court trials, death penalty cases and even witnessed an execution in Georgia. No Edwin, my very thorough knowledge of capital murder, didn't come from just sitting in the living room. I really do enjoy intelligent debates, I hope we have one!
Ron Anthony October 04, 2011 at 05:45 PM
Ray, Thanks for your thoughtful article-- whether you did it from your "living room" or not-- with or without "house slippers"! (LOL) BTW-- I am in the legal profession and I hope more people of all walks a life take time to review the Troy Davis case. The points you raise here are valid, especially when you look at the Brian Nichols case. If Nichols had gotten the death penalty, there would have been few protests to save his life, except for those who always oppose the death penalty and executions. Like Troy Davis, Nichols is also Black; but there's no doubt that Nichols committed the awful crimes he was accused of. The 4 murders, assault and kidnapping were done in his flight to avoid prosecution. Yet he got a life sentence, because he agreed to plead guilty after he was convicted of everything? It makes no sense, and neither does the death penalty if we have no clear cut and consistent standard for using it. We need to keep asking questions!
Ray Metoyer October 04, 2011 at 05:51 PM
Thank you Ron, that is one of the main points I'm trying to make. To be honest, I still can't believe that Davis was executed. I thought the courts would order a new trial or his sentence would be commuted. But the Davis execution is not the end of the story, it's the beginning of a new chapter!
Janita Poe October 04, 2011 at 06:13 PM
Ray, thank you for posting well-written, insightful blog columns that draw readers from all viewpoints! Cascade Patch appreciates you!!


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