Today is a day of disappointment; disappointment in our legal system and disappointment in people’s capacity for compassion. Troy Davis is a 42 year old man who was convicted of murdering an off duty police officer in 1989 in Savannah, Georgia. One of the men present at the murder scene went to the police and implicated Troy as the killer, and four days later Troy was arrested. Throughout the trial, nine witnesses testified that Troy was in fact the killer. The murder weapon was never found, and Troy was convicted based solely on eye witness accounts. There was absolutely no physical evidence to link him to the crime. Since the trial date, seven of the nine men who testified again him have come back and recanted their testimonies and stated that there was pressure from the officers to implicate Troy. One witness said he had no idea that he was signing official papers that accused Troy because he was illiterate. Despite the doubt of his guilt, his execution date was set.
Many highly influential people and groups such as Amnesty International, former President Jimmy Carter, Al Sharpton, Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, presidential candidate Bob Barr and former FBI Director and judge William S. Sessions have called upon the courts to grant Troy a new trial or evidentiary hearing.
On Friday, September 16, 2011 I drove to downtown Atlanta with Holly and Sage and Zach to join a group of our friends from Jubilee (the farm where Sage lived last year), Martin Luther King III (son of MLK Jr.), Al Sharpton, Troy’s family and 2,000 others to march down the street to the capital. I’ve never been a part of something like that. You see things like that on TV every once in a while or in movies about the 60s or 70s. In the middle of it all, it was easy to think, ‘What am I doing here? This is weird.’ But then, as we were walking, someone started to sing over a megaphone ‘This Little Light of Mine’. In about half of a second, everyone, all 2,000 plus people were singing this simple song that I’ve been singing my whole life. As I stared into the eyes of Troy Davis’ picture on one of the hundreds of signs and sang along with all of these children of God, I knew with all of myself that God’s kingdom has surely come and I was standing in the midst of it, as we do every day. Where two or more are gathered in His name, he must be present, not just among us, but in us.
Healing tears came to my eyes that day because of an overwhelming sense of joy that humanity can come together in the name of compassion in such large numbers. Today my tears are tears of sadness for the life of Troy Davis that is about to be taken from him tomorrow afternoon by lethal injection. How can we as humans, as Christians, as children of God take another human’s life from them? Before we went to the march, we met some friends at the Open Door (a Christian-based homeless ministry) to eat dinner and pray for Troy and his family). Our friend, Emma, had just received a letter from Troy and wanted to read it to the group. Emma is part of a group that visits people on death row to give them hope and someone to talk to. The letter read something like this: ‘My dear friend, Emma. As my time on earth is drawing near to its close, I want to tell you that I am at peace with God to die. But before I go, I need you to promise me this one thing: that you will turn your life completely and wholly over to our God of love. Devote your life to him and everything will not be in vain. Tell everyone at the Open Door thank you from my heart for their support.’ Troy knew that Emma is an atheist and he needed to tell her that before he died.
Today Georgia’s board of pardons rejected Troy’s last chance of clemency leaving his execution still scheduled for tomorrow Wednesday, September 21 at 7:00 pm eastern time.
Tomorrow I’m going to meet at our church (Northlake Church of Christ) with a number of other members to pray for Troy as his life is taken from him and his heart stops beating. We will also be praying Troy’s family who has been so active in trying to shed light on his innocence for these 22 years. However, I don’t want to forget about the family of Mark MacPhail, the officer who was killed all those years ago. They have been actively calling for Troy’s execution and speaking out about his guilt. There is so much pain and anger there, but I can not believe that that pain will be alleviated by another murder. So I want to pray that the family will somehow know forgiveness in their hearts for the man who took Mark’s life. God knows that’s the only way they will ever find the peace of Christ. ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.’ ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ ‘For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.’ These are all the words of the man Jesus, whom we follow.
God of mercy. I praise you today for loving us so richly. Please send your angles of comfort to Troy today and tomorrow as he so bravely awaits his death. Whether he is innocent or guilty of the crime of which he has been accused, I ask that you would listen to his heart and hear his plea for your love, mercy, and forgiveness. Comfort Troy’s family and Mark’s family, giving them peace and hope for eternal life. Help them to forgive those they would harbor hatred for. I ask that you transform that hatred to love like only you can. I ask these things in the name of Jesus, the man who forgave his murderers before they even finished the task. Amen.
There was national coverage of the march I participated in if anyone is interested in looking at a video of it; and for those of you concerned about my safety, please know that the march was very peaceful, pleasant and not at all out of hand. There was definitely a lot of energy and emotion, but nothing to be concerned over my safety.
I love you all, and thank you for taking the time to read these posts.