Decision expected soon
Update — #TooMuchDoubt: How social media may save Troy Davis from the deathpenalty
UPDATE: The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied clemency for Troy Davis, allowing for his execution to be carried out on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Eastern time. As reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Davis has few options left. The U.S. Supreme Court has aleady denied his appeal and the Georgia governor does not have the power to commute his sentence. Supporters say they will continue the fight, even appealing to President Obama. Family and friends of the slain police officer, Mark Allen McPhail, say justice needs to be served.
Sunday morning, hundreds began gathering in prayer working to save a man they believe is innocent, from his date with execution. It's a fight garnering support in Texas and around the world and it's a fight making waves in social media.
Outside the Georgia Board of Pardons & Paroles’ office they gathered in solidarity for Troy Davis. Reminiscently located off Martin Luther King Junior Drive, the office hosted a hearing Monday to determine whether Davis should be granted clemency, or a pardon from death row.
It's a last ditch effort for Davis, the board can offer clemency, commuting his sentence to life without parole. This is his final chance to escape his slated fate, he has exhausted all his appeals, been set for—and released from—three different execution dates, and now is set for execution again on Wednesday.
An African American male, Troy Davis was accused of murdering a police officer in 1989. He was convicted and sent to death row in 1991. Two decades later, Davis has attracted international attention because many think there is considerable doubt he actually belongs there.
Since the trial, seven of the original nine witnesses recanted their testimony, claiming they were mistaken or coerced into false identification by the police. Witnesses who originally identified Davis as the shooter now claim:
“I am not proud for lying at Troy's trial, but the police had me so messed up that I felt that's all I could do or else I would go to jail.” - Darrell Collins
“After the officers talked to me, they gave me a statement and told me to sign it. I signed it. I did not read it because I cannot read…” – Antoine Williams
“At Troy Davis' trial, I identified him as the person who shot the officer. … I felt pressured to point at him because he was the one who was sitting in the courtroom. I have no idea what the person who shot the officer looks like." - Antoine Williams
“Everything happened so fast down there. I couldn't honestly remember what anyone looked like…but that’s not what the cops wanted to hear.” – Larry Young
Following news that this case was wrought with controversy, turmoil and drama, anti-death penalty groups began to get involved.
The Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP), Amnesty International, and the NAACP were just a few of the organizations outraged by Georgia's attempt to put a possibly innocent man to death. Sunday's 24-hour prayer vigil was only one of hundreds of events over the last couple of weeks, crying out against his death sentence.
These organizations have not acted alone. Celebrities ranging from Jimmy Carter and former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson to Al Sharpton and Pope Benedict XVI have spoken on behalf of Davis, pleading to spare his life due to the unusual circumstances.
These actions succeeded in garnering the public's attention. The NAACP sent a petition to the pardons board with 663,000 signatures—begging they overturn the original execution decision. And CEDP helped organize rallies across the U.S. this past Friday, deemed International Day of Solidarity for Troy Davis.
And international it was. Along with the people rallying in cities like New York, Austin, and San Francisco, were people rallying in other countries like Spain and Australia.
Most interesting about these rallies is that the organizations used social media to organize them. Among the international demonstrations, videos, and letters, Amnesty International launched a social media campaign to convince the public that there is #TooMuchDoubt to execute Davis.
The campaign asks people to change their Facebook pictures to photos of Davis with the words Too Much Doubt written above his face. And several tweets every minute include the hashtag #TooMuchDoubt.
The NAACP also jumped on the social media bandwagon to help citizens get their voices of support heard. It launched the “I am Troy Davis” campaign, with similar Facebook photos and hashtags. It also let supporters text their signatures to the petition.
The campaign led musicians, producers and DJs to add over 500 voices, proclaiming "I Am Troy Davis," to the to the growing list of petition signatures. Rodney Carmichael reports:
“The campaign has compiled seven music-backed tracks featuring calls of solidarity from such supporters as Martina Correia (sister of Troy Davis and founder of the Free Troy Davis Movement) and Chairman Fred Hampton, Jr. (son of slain Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton)… as well as a host of local musicians and artists.”
This radio collaboration let listeners call in from anywhere—Mexico, Thailand, Jamaica—to say that they too are Troy Davis. They too should be innocent until proven guilty. And they too want justice.
While the decision by the Georgia Board Pardons and Paroles will be based on the facts of the case, the hearing already shows just how successful social media can be. After hundreds of thousands of people around the globe have spoken out—through editorials, Facebook, text messaging, Twitter, and podiums.—we will see whether #TooMuchDoubt is enough to save Troy Davis.