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Will a possibly innocent man be put to death today to save a reprehensible system?

By **Joel Whitney**

joel_whitney.jpg“If I knew then what I know now,” juror Brenda Forrest said in 2009 [as quoted here in The Nation], “Troy Davis would not be on death row.”

“His conviction hinged on nine witnesses,” the article reports, “no physical evidence linked him to the crime—seven of whom later recanted their testimony. Some described being coerced by police. Others point to a different man—the eighth witness, who first implicated Davis—as the real killer.”

Allegedly Judge Penny Freesemann can stay Troy Davis’s execution. Her number (912 652 7252) has appeared elsewhere. Here is her email as well: “”

Here is what Amnesty suggested you write: “I am writing to urge you to seek a withdrawal of the death warrant against Troy Davis. He has been denied clemency by the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles despite the fact that significant doubts continue to plague his conviction. Executions when there are still substantial doubts about guilt should never be permitted to proceed, and the responsibility rests with you to ensure that does not happen in this case.

It would significantly undermine the credibility of the Georgia system of justice if an execution were carried out under such a persistent cloud of doubts about guilt. It would show a callous disregard for the very real possibility of putting an innocent person to death, and public faith Georgia’s commitment to a fair justice system would be shattered.

You have it in your power to prevent this affront to justice from happening. I urge you to call for a withdrawal of Troy Davis’s death warrant without delay.”

I’m not as experienced as Amnesty but I might (and did) write something as simple as: “Just consider for a second that the widely cited doubts are real. Now imagine this were happening to your own brother or friend.”


Joel Whitney is an editor of Guernica. Read his interview with Zoya Phan here, and with U.S. poet laureate W.S. Merwin here. Joel’s writing and commentary have appeared in the New York Times, World Policy Journal, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Paris Review, The Nation, Agni, New York magazine—and on NPR. He lives in Brooklyn. He’s on Twitter.

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