How Easily Can an Innocent Man Lose His Life?
Ask Troy Davis, who came within a harrowing 23 hours of execution by lethal injection last year and received a new execution date of September 23, 2008
“Anyone could be in my shoes.”
For 17 years, Troy has waited on Georgia’s death row for a proper review of his case. He has been consistently denied this right, even though overwhelming evidence of his innocence casts more than a reasonable doubt on his guilt. The Case for Innocence
Davis was convicted and sent to death row in 1991 for the shooting of a white off-duty police officer, Mark MacPhail, in Savannah, Georgia, but serious questions about his guilt quickly surfaced:
➡ No physical evidence tied Troy to the murder.
➡ His conviction was based solely on inconsistent witness testimony.
➡ There is strong evidence of witness coercion by police.
➡ 7 of 9 witnesses recanted or since changed their stories – to support Troy’s innocence.
➡ Nine people, including several initial witnesses, implicate the key eyewitness as the actual killer.
In a narrow 4-3 denial of a new hearing for Davis, Chief Justice Sears of the Georgia Supreme Court wrote in the dissenting opinion, “…it simply defies all logic and morality…”. As a result of the overwhelming facts substantiating reasonable doubt in Troy’s case, pleas for fairness have come from many social justice proponents including: Amnesty International, Nobel Peace Prize-winner Desmond Tutu, and the Pope.
Troy has one last chance of a final appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Attack on Reasonable Doubt
From its very roots, the U.S. Criminal Court System has maintained the reasonable doubt principle as the highest standard of proof, a necessary validation of the presumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty. This vital cornerstone is due to an outcome that can be extreme: the jury wields the power to preserve or take life.
Since 1972, 129 people on death row in the United States have been exonerated, narrowly escaping execution as truth of their innocence finally came forth. On Georgia’s death row, 2 of 5 inmates exonerated were from the same county that prosecuted Troy Davis. 80% of Georgia’s death sentences were reversed due to serious error. In such a system, how much collateral damage is acceptable? If it could happen to Troy Davis, it could happen to anyone.
The Documentary Film and Outreach Campaign
In this film, the audience examines the case of Troy Davis – whose claim of wrongful conviction should at the very least have the chance to prove his right to freedom. They will witness the testimony of those deeply involved in the proceedings– including parole board members having the authority to set him free–and see how the controversial Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 is a major obstacle for Troy and others who hope to be exonerated.
Davis’s case shows a clear deficiency in the system and the film will reveal how easy it is for an innocent man to lose his freedom - even his life. Moreover, this story documents the faith and spirit of an inspiring man and his family as they remain undaunted in the battle for his freedom and for the freedom of others.
The Purpose of the Film
Striking photography and poignant storytelling will inspire and educate the global community to:
➡ Urgent action and accountability on the issue of reasonable doubt.
➡ Challenge the government’s power to take life by examining Troy’s strong case for innocence
➡ Challenge the appropriateness of the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act
➡ Affect the outcome of Troy’s case by sparking public awareness and a call to action
Produced through the Shae Foundation, a 501(c)3 humanitarian and educational organization of artists, this feature length documentary will create an international awareness about the pervasiveness of injustice while encouraging a grass roots movement to call for government to institute social change. Critically acclaimed filmmaker Terry L. Benedict will take the helm as director. His focus on developing inspiring stories that make a positive impact on the local and global community provides the right direction for this timely project. The Outreach
To achieve full potential, the film must reach as many eyes as possible. Our aim for the documentary is to premiere at a major film festival, obtain a theatrical release with nationwide distribution, and have educational screenings supported by organizations such as Amnesty International. With the help of follow-up curriculum created to accompany the film, communities will engage in pivotal conversations on critical social justice issues.
Before the scheduled execution date for Troy we will release short form media of the film. Publicity will begin as early as possible to have an impact in the efforts to save Troy’s life. Immediate Steps
We are entrenched in a fundraising effort to make this film a reality and are driven to create a high quality and compelling film as quickly as possible while Troy’s case is still pending. Early discussions and research are currently on a fast track with inspired investors.
Troy wants to see his story told through this film because ‘No one should ever have to endure what I’ve been through.’ Troy is not vindictive of the people who put him there. He only wants to see the system work so that it truly protects the innocent.
He understands more than anyone else just how important and sacred the core judicial principle of ‘reasonable doubt’ is to protecting all of us. It’s a sobering thought to think that people can wrongly accuse us and it can literally cost us our lives.
I will be filming the Amnesty International Rally on Troy’s behalf September 10, 2008 in Atlanta. We won’t be waiting to have a completed film but will begin posting on the film website to raise awareness and tell Troy’s story. Interviews, events and historical archives will continue to be assembled. Ultimately, we will have a complete film as we did for Desmond Doss in the award winning film “The Conscientious Objector (see: http://www.metroactive.com/papers/metro/03.10.04/objector-0411.html). Troy’s Parole Board hearing is scheduled for Friday, September 12, 2008 and I will be filming before and after the hearing.
My promise to Troy was that I would carry his story on regardless of his outcome.
The following website provides opportunities to get more involved: TroyDavisFilm.org ___
Terry L. Benedict produced and directed The Conscientious Objector, an award winning documentary on Desmond Doss.
Special thanks to Michael Peabody at ReligiousLiberty.tv who is also supporting this just cause.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/955