Troy Davis is scheduled to be murdered by the state of Georgia tonight at 7pm EDT. I say "murdered" rather than "executed" because murder is what it really is. It is the intentional taking of another person's life by the state. There is no bigger government than this. None. And yet, it is because Georgia is a conservative state that it is more or less assured that a man who may possibly be innocent, around whose guilt there is much doubt, will not receive any mercy from the state.
The Troy Davis case was staged—pure theater. I do not mean "staged" because the case has attracted worldwide attention and high-profile supporters. Nor do I refer here to the drama surrounding the Georgia Board of Pardons, which at the 11th hour denied clemency again this morning, so that Davis faces execution tomorrow—despite powerful evidence of his innocence. By "staged" I mean that the eyewitness evidence at the core of his original criminal trial was, quite literally, staged by the police.
The federal court that finally reviewed evidence of Davis' innocence agreed "this case centers on eyewitness testimony." Yet that court put to one side the fact that seven of the nine witnesses at the trial have now recanted, and new witnesses have implicated another man. The court did so while failing to carefully examine how eyewitnesses ultimately came to identify Davis as the man who shot a police officer intervening in a fight at a Burger King parking lot. The Troy Davis case—which raises a wide array of flaws in our death penalty system, our post-conviction system, and the politics of criminal justice—is thus also a case about malleability of eyewitness memory and police misconduct.
I will personally attest to the fallibility of eyewitness testimony. I had the order of events right, I had one of the players right, but I had the victim wrong. And I had pictures taken in real time!