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Troy Davis execution stands in US tradition of racist lynching

This article is over 10 years, 4 months old
Ashok Kumar from Wisconsin in the US, now a student activist at Oxford university, gives his personal reflection on the Troy Davis case and the death penalty in the US
Issue 2270

The execution of Troy Davis was nothing short of murder. And the sheer brutality of his killing has left many grasping to understand what kind of nation the US has become.

Hours before the scheduled hour of Troy’s execution, thousands of people in the US from across the political spectrum began posting, tweeting and blogging against what was about to happen.

They freely used language normally only employed by the left: racist, murder, lynching. Even prison wardens and conservative politicians admitted there was just ‘too much doubt’ in Troy’s case to follow through with the execution.

Of course the US government is responsible for the deaths of millions around the world. It presides over the daily suffering and humiliation of black people in the US.

But the Troy Davis case, with its flimsy two witnesses and lack of any other evidence for his guilt, ripped the shell off the US’s criminal justice system and exposed its racist nature to millions of people around the world.

The outcry was especially significant because death penalty is still fiercely defended by a majority of God-fearing people in the US. At a recent Republican Party debate the loudest cheers of the night came when Texas governor Rick Perry was asked about the 234 (mostly black) inmates he had executed in his years in office.

Meanwhile earlier this year Johannes Mehserle—a white cop who was videoed pinning Oscar Grant to the ground as he shot him in the back—walked free after spending less than one year in prison.

The death penalty follows a tradition of lynch mob ‘justice’ in the US. Troy was poor, black and stood accused in 1989 of killing a white cop in the South. Nothing less than the death penalty would suffice to appease the widespread fear and hatred among white Americans.

But there was no physical evidence linking Troy to the crime. Seven of nine supposed witnesses to the shooting have recanted their evidence. Of the remaining two, one was the prime suspect in the case before he fingered Troy.

Having lived away from the US and in the UK for the last few years I guess it’s easy to forget how the violence of capital punishment in the US is so intertwined to the history of occupation and subjugation by the majority culture against the poor and the black.

Yet we must also remember that British cops have been responsible for deaths in custody. Mark Duggan, Smiley Culture and over 300 others have died over the last 12 years. Maybe my new home and old aren’t so different after all.

But let’s never forget Troy’s final message before he was legally lynched on Wednesday 21 September at 11.08pm. ‘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.’

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