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Brandeis students protest Davis execution

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Section: Featured, News

September 23, 2011

The Troy Davis trial had captivated media for weeks and, finally, has come to a close. Students who felt there was more than a shadow of a doubt of Davis’ innocence due to the physical evidence and recanting of witness testimonies (and even a confession by someone else) protested his execution with duct tape gags and a vow of silence.

The night of the execution, Brandeisians were repeatedly refreshing news pages, waiting for some news of the Supreme Court’s decision. After it was announced that the appeal was rejected, some students wore tape over their mouths and refused to speak in protest of the Supreme Court decision. From the Brandeis Protest for Troy Davis Facebook, “Although hope is lost for Troy Davis, we, as a community, can still effect change, and promote justice.”

Sentenced to death in 1991 for the shooting of Savannah, Ga., off-duty police officer Mark McPhail, his appeals were rejected by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a two to one ruling. The dissenting judge, Rosemary Barkett, wrote, “To execute Davis, in the face of a significant amount of proffered evidence that may establish his actual innocence, is unconscionable and unconstitutional.” One of the few witnesses that did not recant his testimony was the other prime suspect in the case. He also was the person to initially inform the police of Davis’ professed guilt.

Troy Davis was executed on Sept. 21 at 11 p.m. He had had three previous sentences—each time he appealed, he was sentenced to death over again.

The Supreme Court reviewed the case for an entirety of three hours Wednesday night, and though the decision disappointed supporters, it is significant that the justices spent as much time as they did reviewing a death penalty case.

He has become a martyr of the anti-death penalty cause. Amnesty International wrote, “The state of Georgia shamefully executed Troy Davis … but our fight to abolish the death penalty lives on.” They collected more than 700,000 signatures in less than a week, and the other organizations that bastioned Davis have had similar success. The ACLU and NAACP contributed their support, along with numerous public figures, including President Jimmy Carter.

Many students at Brandeis consider the Davis trial to be a “legal lynching” and evidence of the “racism inherent in the system.”

“It’s disgusting because there was so much evidence against his guilt,” Sneha Walia ’15 said. “The death penalty should never be allowed. No one should have the power to play God.”

Currently, the organizers of the protest are talking to the administration about organizing a rally to memorialize Troy Davis and the tragedy of the death penalty. “What happened tonight in Georgia constitutes an absolute failure of the justice system,” said the protest organizers, who urged Brandeisians, as members of an “activist school,” to show support.

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