Supreme Court What We Saw at the Troy Davis Protest in Washington, D.C.


On September 21, a crowd of about 500 people – many of them students at Howard University's law school –  gathered outside the White House to protest the scheduled execution in Georgia of convicted cop killer Troy Davis.  On death row for two decades, enough questions had been raised about Davis' guilt that his death led to an international outcry. In a grim pairing, Davis' execution was scheduled for the same night as one for Lawrence Russell Brewer, a Texas man guilty of killing a black man in a racially motivated murder.

While some held signs reading "Free Troy Davis," the prevailing sentiment was strictly a moral opposition to the death penalty, which some placards equated to "legal lynching."  Somber, emotional, and peaceful, the demonstrators passed the time singing spirituals, reading personal messages from Troy Davis, and eventually engaging in silent prayer.

At 7 p.m., nearby church bells broke the silence, indicating that the scheduled time of execution had arrived. A few tense minutes passed without any news, when someone put a radio up to a megaphone. Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman reported that a stay of execution had been granted, sending cheers throughout the crowd. Moments later, the NAACP's Benjamin Jealous told Goodman that he had spoken with Davis' lawyer and while he had not been executed at the scheduled time, no stay had been granted.

Demonstrators took to their smartphones looking for the latest news, which indicated that the U.S. Supreme Court was considering whether or not to grant a stay. Disappointed and confused, the crowd began a spontaneous march to the Supreme Court, chanting "They Say Death Row! We say 'Hell, No!" The court ultimately declined to intervene.

After arriving at the steps of the Supreme Court, the crowd continued to demonstrate. But at around 9 p.m., rumors percolated throughout the crowd that a delay of a week had been issued and the crowd began to disperse.

By 11:08 p.m., Troy Davis had been executed by lethal injection.

Despite the international attention the case has received, it remains to be seen whether Davis' execution will affect attitudes toward capital punishment in the United States. United States regarding capital punishment. Currently, 13 states and the District of Columbia do not have a death penalty. The other states and the federal government have capital punishment laws on the books, but not all have executed anyone since 1976, when the Supreme Court lifted a comprehensive ban on the practice. In 2010, there were 46 executions in the United States. The practice remains popular with voters; about 65 percent approved of capital punishment in a 2011 Gallup survey.

Given the executions of Davis and Brewer, capital punishment will certainly be a hot topic at tonight's debate for candidates vying for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Adding to the mix will be the defense of the death penalty that Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) made in the last debate. After declaring his belief in the "the ultimate justice" for convicted killers, the audience applauded. Given that fewer countries still perform executions—the U.S. is joined by despotic regimes such as Cuba, Iran, and North Korea – it will be interesting to see how the candidates handle the issue.

Produced by Anthony L. Fisher.

About 2.30 minutes

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  1. Willingham might (or might not) have been innocent. Davis is burning in hell where he belongs.

  2. some placards equated to “legal lynching.”

    The extra-judicial lynching is preferable to the state kind.

  3. the prevailing sentiment was strictly a moral opposition to the death penalty

    “Save the Murderers!!!”

    I think in 20 years we will have protesters against the treatment of cancer…cuz you know…cancer is “alive”.

    Anyway the state should not execute people because the state fucks up everything from land use planning to health care and everything in between…Giving it the power to kill is begging to have innocent people executed.

  4. If you kill a cop in front of a large group of witnesse, and those witnesses testify that you did this while under oath and under cross examination, and when considered numerous times by numerous courts the defendant is still found guilty, then the only injustice here is justice delayed. This group victim mentality that the liberal elements have inflicted on black America is what lead to crap like this. These people probably though the Juice was innoccent too. I mean the “gloves don’t fit” right?

    1. I would have to review the specifics….

      I can think of a number of situations where it would be legally justified to kill a cop in front of a group of witnesses.

      Also I have compete and absolute faith in the justice system to utterly ignore those legal justifications in order to put down a “Black Cop Killer?”

      1. Maybe I am a little biased here as I do live across the street from a Burger King in a poor neighborhood with lots of homeless people (the Salvation Army is across to the south, and the county welfare offices are across the alley to the north, BK is on my west. Though my hood as it were is not a particularly violent place. I am armed to the teeth though, just in case.)

      2. review the specifics. in all the troy davis posts, NOBODY ever mentions mark macphail, undeniably a hero.

        officer macphail was working an off duty security detail at a restaurant, when he saw a man being beaten. he ran to help and …

        “At about 1:15 AM, seeking to help Young who was being attacked in a nearby parking lot, MacPhail was killed. He had been shot twice, once through the heart and once in the face, without drawing his gun. ”

        per odmp…

        Officer Mark MacPhail was shot and killed while working an off duty security job at a bus station. He was shot when he responded to the cries of a homeless man who was being robbed and pistol-whipped.

        The robber shot Officer MacPhail underneath his vest and then again in the head as he fell.

        The subject was sentenced to death and executed on September 21, 2011, twenty-two years after his conviction.

        Officer MacPhail was a U.S. Army veteran and had served with the Savannah Police Department for three years. He was survived by his wife, 1-year-old daughter, infant son, mother, and siblings.

      3. there were NO legal justifications. the only question was did davis DO it? he was linked ot the crime when the bullet casings were linked to a gun that he had used in ANOTHER shooting, that is not even in question as done by him.

        regardless of whether he did it or not, the officer was a hero, coming to the aid of a man being pistol whipped, who died saving that man’s life

        1. A hero died so we better kill somebody. Anybody really.

          1. don’t conflate the issues.

            there are two issues

            1) that macphail died a hero, coming to the aid of a man being beaten, with his gun still in his holster, pursuing one of the attackers, who turned, fired at him, then after he hit the ground came up and fired again at close range. those facts are not in dispute.

            2) as to whether davis WAS that man, is the question. granted, most of the opponents of davis’ execution also happen to be against the death penalty, and (much like the mumia case) are using it to try to drum up support against the DP, regardless of case facts. review the case facts and come to your conclusion. davis got an immense amount of due process, appeals, forensic testing, etc. etc. but whether or not he was the one who killed macphail, it is not in question that macphail died a hero, that his gun was still holstered while he pursued a violent felon, and who was shot dead for doing so. executed after hitting the ground.

            1. The formal amount of due process is unimportant if the issue is weighed down in emotional talk about how a hero, blonde, or whatever died.

              1. again, you miss the point. the point is almost nobody even MENTIONs macphail. he’s dissapeared. he undeniably died a hero’s death. he was also a chasing a beating/robbery suspect with a holstered gun. if the situation had been opposite and he had shot the guy, the reasonoids would probably be calling it excessive force.

                the point is if you even do a search of HIS name, almost all that comes up is hagiographies for davis.

                whatEver one thinks of davis’ cause (valid or not), the fact that macphail has been nearly completely ignored is fucking sad.

                much like i doubt anybody here could even name the guy mumia killed (mumia is obviously guilty as fuck btw).

                1. That’s nonsense. I followed the news closely before his death on the internet and on television. McPhail and the suffering of his family is mentioned repeatedly by those interviewed who worked to save Davis’ life.

  5. Anyone else think Ron Paul might somehow get roped into this and get some boos?

  6. Interesting:

    At 7 p.m., nearby church bells broke the silence, indicating that the scheduled time of execution had arrived. A few tense minutes passed without any news, when someone put a radio up to a megaphone. Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman reported that a stay of execution had been granted, sending cheers throughout the crowd. Moments later, the NAACP’s Benjamin Jealous told Goodman that he had spoken with Davis’ lawyer and while he had not been executed at the scheduled time, no stay had been granted.

    The crowd cheered at approximately the same moment the execution of Lawrence Russell Brewer was announced.
    (shortly after 7:00 PM EDT, Brewer was executed just after 6:00 PM CDT).

    Was the execution of Brewer announced at the DC rally?

  7. “[T]he U.S. is joined by despotic regimes such as Cuba, Iran, and North Korea[.]” Seriously, this nonsense again?

    How about saying, “In abolishing the death penalty, Canada is joined by despotic regimes such as Eritrea, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan”? It’s precisely as true.

    Yes, of the five most populous countries in the world ranked “Not Free” by Freedom House, four have the death penalty. Of course, of the five most populous countries in the world ranked “Free” by Freedom House, four also have and use the death penalty.

    1. Yes, the false equivalence is ridiculous. In Iran, you are given the death penalty for being gay. Cuba and North Korea execute political prisoners.

      Meanwhile, in the US, we have routinely narrowed the death penalty for cold blooded killers–not even for child rapists.

      YES, there really is a comparison there. /sarc

  8. You know what you DIDN’T see? You didn’t see a group of committed people led by Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, Christopher Hitchens and any of the other angry new atheists crying, praying and protesting state-sponsored murder. What you did see is what committed people of faith do when a gross injustice and a murder is being carried out.

    1. Seems kind of odd to single out athiests who live thousands of miles away.

    2. Wait, are you actually suggesting that religious folks getting hysterical over the execution of a cop-killer after extensive due process of law is supposed to be a point for religion?

    3. A murder is an unlawful killing, so a legal execution isn’t murder.

  9. If you’re against the death penalty and protesting the pending execution of murderers (one of the apparently dragged a black man to his death), you’re obligated to be feel morally conflicted. You’re against the state executing people, but you also keep in mind the victims and the justice they deserve.

    If you’re in these protests clapping, singing songs, quoting scriptures, and putting on other supportive performances for the sake of these two criminals, you’re doing your own cuase great disservice. It’s not unlike waving rebel flags and singing dixie outside the court when the government wrongly prosecutes hate groups for exercising their first amendment rights.

    1. i’ll give them one thing. this case is possibly better than tookie williams, who was so 100% obviously guilty it wasn’t funny, and who was the piece of shit behind the crips,etc. and a lifetime of violent crime… “but he’s turned his life around in prison… he wrote a children’s book”

      or mumia abu jamal, who is OBVIOUSLY guilty w./o any doubt

      1. Those were pretty unsympathetic poster children.

  10. “Reason is a faculty far larger than mere objective force. When either the political or the scientific discourse announces itself as the voice of reason, it is playing God, and should be spanked and stood in the corner.” – Ursula K LeGuin

  11. “Legal lynching” doesn’t make any fucking sense.

    Free Hat!

  12. Boo-hoo…another reason to never call the cops until after the perpetrator is properly disposed of…a “world wide outcry” is validation, not an indictment…

  13. “This is not a case about the death penalty….”

    That’s true. If you oppose the death penalty for political or moral reasons, Troy Davis is a far worse symbol for the cause than Lawrence Brewer, because the political stance that solidifies around Davis’ claims of innocence undermines the prolife case for banning the death penalty, which starts with the principle that is immoral to take a life except when it is required in self-defense or in the defense of others. As long as we can be reasonably assured that dangerous killers can be kept away from the public for the duration of their lives, there is no compelling reason to kill them. Threaten that assurance, and suddenly there is a justification for execution.

    Brewer admitted his crime. There was no popular “free Brewer” movement. If you oppose his execution, your moral position is crystal clear. The people in the Free Troy Davis movement are not reliable allies. Quite the opposite, in fact.

  14. A legal lynching is, of course, an oxymoron.

    Mental note: never hire a Howard law grad.

  15. So, if the protesters are really motivated by “a purely moral opposition to the death penalty”, why did I have to wait until now to hear about Brewer? And why did I hear nothing, zip,nada from them about the execution of Paul Hill? There was no “Free Paul Hill!” or “we’re all Paul Hill!”

    Is their opposition “purely moral”, or an ideological complaint that the wrong people are being executed.

    1. Some people who are against the killing of Troy Davis are against the death penalty. The reason that it has gotten so much attention is because there are so many questions about whether he did it or not. The problem with the death penalty in his case is if we ever have proof he did not do it, it is too late. In fact, some of the people who have been concerned with Troy Davis’ fate are advocates for innocent people accused of murder, which is alarmingly common.

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