At 11:08pm on September 21, 2011, the state of Georgia executed Troy Anthony Davis for the killing of off-duty officer Mark Allen MacPhail. Much has been written and said about the case against Troy Davis. His advocates are dismayed that the state could execute someone merely on circumstantial evidence and eyewitness testimony, much of which has been recanted.1 For many, the case transcends anti-death penalty ideology because even one who does not explicitly believe that the death penalty is wrong could reasonably agree that the death penalty in this case was not warranted. For others, the case epitomizes why the state ought not have the authority to kill in the name of justice.
My conversation with the Reverend Raphael G. Warnock, pastor of the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, occured a mere five months after the execution of Mr. Davis. Rev. Warnock was a preeminent advocate for Mr. Davis, leading justice marches, rallies and petition drives, addressing the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, and bringing public attention to the case from the pulpit and in interviews with several media outlets. In our discussion, Rev. Warnock reflects on the religious foundation of his anti-death penalty stance, his pastoral relationship with Troy, his participation in activism on Troy’s behalf, and his leadership of his historically activist congregation in social justice work on behalf of Troy Davis. Rev. Warnock carefully details why we should care about this tragic death and in doing so, illustrates for us why Troy Davis still matters.
Photograph by Amnesty International USA.
- Seven of the nine eyewitnesses subsequently recanted their testimony that Troy Davis killed Office MacPhail.