Jen Marlowe’s newest book, I Am Troy Davis, was published right around the second anniversary of Davis’s September 2011 execution by the state of Georgia. Davis was killed by lethal injection despite considerable evidence suggesting that he was innocent.
Davis was convicted of the 1989 murder of police officer Mark MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia. Years of appeals were unsuccessful despite significant doubts about his guilt.
Davis’s original trial was flawed, and most of the witnesses later recanted or contradicted their stories. There was no physical evidence linking Davis to the crime, and his conviction was based solely on the questionable testimony by witnesses. In other words, there was reasonable doubt as to Davis’s guilt.
Davis’s case was so compelling that Pope Benedict XVI called for the case to be reconsidered. So did Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, and countless private citizens. Amnesty International called it “an outrageous affront to justice.” But the public outcry was ignored by those in charge.
As a longtime member of Amnesty International, with a particular interest in death penalty issues, I was already quite familiar with the case, which I had followed and written about through the years leading up to the execution. Still, I learned so much from Marlowe’s in-depth book, which teaches us more about the case details—and the remarkable Davis family—than we could ever have learned through the mainstream media’s coverage of the case.
The book has four heroes:
1. Troy Davis himself, who spent his 20 years on death row selflessly doting long-distance over his family on the outside, and caring more about their well-being than his own fate.
2. Virginia Davis, Troy’s mother, who nurtured the family through the hard times until her death just a few months before his execution.
3. Martina Davis-Correia, Troy’s older sister, who fought tirelessly for justice, even as she fought her own battle against breast cancer.
4. De’Jaun Correia, Martina’s son, now a young man, who bravely and strongly carried the torch while his mother’s health was failing.
This is a story about Troy Davis’s legal battle, and the flaws in the legal system that led to this miscarriage of justice. But, even more, it is a story about the love that holds a family together even through the worst of times.
I recommend this book to anyone who cares about justice—whether you favor the death penalty or oppose it.
I don’t think any human being could read this book and not be strongly moved—and maddened.
Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views appear regularly in a variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites. Note that the ideas expressed here are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Amnesty International or any other organization with which she may be associated. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.