Is Georgia Ready to Execute an Innocent Man?
Sep 21, 2011
by Lisa Rea
I read the papers this morning online searching for this story about Troy Davis. When I read the news that the Georgia Board of Pardons did not grant clemency and that Davis was set to be executed on Wednesday September 21 I swallowed hard. I had not followed this case closely until recently. My work in the last 19 years has been focused on reforming the justice system through advocating for restorative justice. However, in recent years I have met innocent men who were on death row for crimes they did not commit. They are the lucky ones; they're alive to tell their stories. I have met even more victims of violent crime whose loved ones have been murdered around the United States who are increasingly raising their voices against the death penalty. Many of those same crime victims are strong advocates for restorative justice.
Troy Davis's case is one where doubts remain regarding his guilt. Seven out of nine witnesses have recanted their stories fingering Davis as the killer. Some of those witnesses apparently testified against Davis due to harassment by the prosecution or law enforcement. There is no DNA evidence available to test. Even ballistic evidence is questionable. Yet, Georgia is ready to execute this man unless another court intervenes.
In June of 2011 I moderated a crime victims roundtable on restorative justice at Campbell University School of Law in North Carolina. At that national restorative justice conference I met a man named Franky Carrillo. He sat in the audience of my roundtable. I looked out at the audience and thought I recognized his face. After the event I learned why. His story had been in the Los Angeles Times a couple of months before. Franky had been exonerated after some 20 years of incarceration in a California prison. He was now a free man. I was so excited to see him and rejoiced at his freedom and seeing him at this conference. How many more like Franky are there? How many more innocent people sit on death row in America? Is Troy Davis one of them?
I think it is hard not to conclude that he is one of those innocent men. Since I work with crime victims around this country and globally I am saddened by the pain of the victims' family in this case. They seek an end to their pain, pain they have felt since their loved one was murdered. They seek peace. But as I have learned from so many victims and those who have been exonerated, one thing they will not get is peace if the wrong person is executed for a crime he did not commit. Those who speak out against this execution seek justice. Restorative justice cannot be applied when an innocent man is imprisoned, and let alone executed if he is not the guilty party. There will be no restoration or healing of the victim. There will be no offender accountability if the wrong man is executed. If reading this story makes you anxious and unsettled, it should.