Black Men’s Forum Protests Execution

The Harvard Black Men’s Forum issued an open letter yesterday in protest of the execution of Georgia death-row inmate Troy A. Davis, which was temporarily delayed by the Supreme Court Wednesday evening. Despite international controversy regarding the execution, Davis was executed at 11:08 p.m. last night.

Davis was arrested for the murder of Savannah Police Officer Mark MacPhail in 1989 and later sentenced to death for the crime in 1991.

The BMF letter—which was sent out to a number of major media organizations and the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles—enumerates the chronology of Davis’ many trials and suggests an alternative perpetrator, who has been cited by several witnesses, as the possible murderer.

BMF President Damilare K. Sonoiki ’13 said yesterday afternoon that the organization issued the letter because it believed that Davis deserved a stay of execution based on the doubt remaining in the case.

“We’re not saying that he’s innocent, but that there are enough doubts and inconsistencies surrounding the case to justify a stay of execution,” he said. “We believe it would be unjust to execute him if he is possibly innocent.”

In the past 15 years, seven of the nine non-police witnesses from the trial recanted or contradicted their testimony to some degree.

Davis had petitioned the Georgia judicial system several times over matters ranging from a habeas corpus appeal to the state’s use of the electric chair, but each of his petitions was denied.

In a last minute decision, the Supreme Court chose to delay the execution, but ultimately refused to block it.

According to the BMF’s letter, several of the witnesses who testified against Davis later claimed that they were pressured by the police into signing statements that implicated Davis.

Sonoiki said that within the coming weeks, the BMF is going to hold discussions about the execution and the country’s judicial system.

He also said that members of the black community are currently discussing recognizing the execution symbolically—possibly wearing all black or observing a moment of silence—but plans have not yet been finalized.

“We’re going to discuss at our next meeting the topic of justice in America in the context of this case,” he said.

The BMF became active in supporting Davis’ case for a stay of execution, Sonoiki said, because members of the group who have been following the case felt the need to voice their thoughts on the injustice.

“It’s not a matter of race or gender,” he said, “but of doing what’s just.”

—Staff Writer Matthew M. Beck can be reached at mbeck@college.harvard.edu.

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