October 2008   

Mobilize Working-Class Struggle to Free Troy Now!
Abolish the Racist Death Penalty! Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!

Troy Davis Must Not Die!
There Is No Justice in the Capitalist Courts

Troy DavisTroy Davis

On October 24, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals granted a last-minute stay of execution for Troy Anthony Davis. He had been scheduled to be murdered by the state of Georgia three days later. Now the deadline has been pushed back at most to November 18 so his lawyers could file a habeas corpus appeal, but it could come well before then. Davis, a 40-year-old black man, was convicted of the murder of a Savannah police officer in 1989. His conviction in a 1991 trial rested solely on the testimony of witnesses. No weapon was ever found, and there is no physical evidence linking Troy to the killing. Since the trial, seven of the nine eyewitnesses have recanted their testimony, several saying they were coerced by the police into fingering Davis. Three witnesses have said that another man admitted to killing the policeman.

That wouoldn’t even get Troy Davis a hearing, much less set aside the guilty verdict, under the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. Signed into law by Democratic President  Bill Clinton, AEDPA puts impossible limits on the admissibility of exculpatory evidence. Under this act, courts are instructed to ignore proof of innocence if it wasn’t presented in a “proper” and “timely” fashion. This is only part of an elaborate legal framework dating back to the time of slavery under which innocent people are routinely executed, particularly if they are poor and black. There can be no faith in the racist U.S. “justice” system.

The liberal “human rights” group Amnesty In­ter­na­tional has mount­ed an international campaign calling for letters to be sent to the Georgia Board of Pardons, pointing to “overwhelming doubts of Davis’ guilt.” Over the years, a host of prominent figures have called to stop the execution of Troy Davis, including the Pope Benedict, former U.S. president and Georgia governor Jimmy Carter, Georgia Congressman John Lewis, South African bishop Desmond Tutu, singer Harry Belafonte and musician Ravi Shankar, as well as the Council of Europe and the European Parliament – all to no avail.

The threatened execution of Troy Davis is a legal lynching. The Inter­na­tionalist Group calls on working people and the oppressed to mobilize to stop the execution, to free Troy Davis and abolish the barbaric death penalty!

The statements by the witnesses who later recanted their trial testimony expose the everyday functioning of the capitalist state’s legal system.

  • Dorothy Ferrell was on parole and staying in a hotel across the street from the scene of the shooting. Now she testifies: “I was scared that if I didn’t do what the police wanted me to do, then they would try to lock me up again.… From the way the officer was talking, he gave me the impression that I should say that Troy Davis was the one who shot the officer.... I told the detective that Troy Davis was the shooter, even though the truth was that I didn’t see who shot the officer.… I had four children at that time, and I was taking care of them myself. I couldn’t go back to jail.”
  • Darrell Collins was only 16 when more than a dozen police officers converged on his home. “I told them that ... I didn’t see Troy do nothing. They got real mad when I said this and started getting in my face. They were telling me that I was an accessory to murder and that I would pay like Troy was gonna pay if I didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear. They told me … I would be lucky if I ever got out, especially because a police officer got killed. … After a couple of hours of the detectives yelling at me and threatening me, I finally broke down and told them what they wanted to hear. … 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.”
  • Antoine Williams was coerced by police into signing a statement that he could not read, implicating a gunman who he did not see: “I couldn’t really tell what was going on because I had the darkest shades of tint you could possibly have on my windows of my car. As soon as I heard the shot and saw the officer go down, I ducked down under the dash of my car. ... Later that night, some cops … asked me to describe the shooter and what he looked like. … I kept telling them that I didn’t know.… 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.… I have no idea what the person who shot the officer looks like.”

The state of Georgia has refused to hear this evidence because it is itching to kill Troy Davis, and the courts have backed it up. On March 17, the Georgia Supreme Court denied Davis a new trial. His execution was scheduled for September 23, and the state court and Parole Board refused to move the date, even when the U.S. Supreme Court scheduled a hearing for September 29. But eventually the high court in Washington refused to reconsider Davis’ case.

As international protests gather in a last-ditch attempt to save him, Davis’s prosecutor, Spencer Lawton, has taken to the airwaves and the editorial pages to grease the skids for this legal lynching. He sneers at the recantations of the prosecution witnesses, who expose themselves to charges of perjury by coming forward, calling their sworn affidavits “coerced” (by whom?). D.A. Lawton’s defense of the state-sponsored lynching hanging over Troy Davis’s head drips with the bigoted rage of the professional frame-up artist. With the sworn recantations, the case against Davis stands on nothing but the naked will of the racist ruling class to “finish the job.”

Troy Davis needs all the defenders he can get, but the bourgeois figures who have called to stay the execution are concerned first and foremost with sanitizing racist capitalist rule. Amnesty International petitions the Georgia parole board: “Your power to grant clemency exists to prevent such an irreversible error and preserve public faith in the state’s justice system.” Jimmy Carter ran for president in 1976 supporting the reintroduction of the death penalty. Even on the left, those who call for “justice for Troy Davis” and looked to the Supreme Court as Troy’s “last hope” build dangerous illusions in the racist justice system. The demand must be for freedom for Troy Davis, for there is no justice in the capitalist courts!

IG at protest outside Madison Square Garden in New York, 23 October 2008. (Internationalist photo)

The relentless drive for the assassination of Troy Davis is only the latest case in the machinery of state murder, where those accused of killing a police officer are framed and railroaded with a vengeance despite their innocence. On October 6, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down an appeal of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the renowned journalist and former Black Panther spokesman who has been on Pennsylvania’s death row for more than a quarter century, falsely accused of killing a Philadelphia cop. The fact that witnesses lied on the stand in a rigged trial before a judge who was a lifetime member of the Fraternal Order of Police was of no concern to the high court. Now another appeal is being prepared over the blatant exclusion of black jurors in Mumia’s “trial.” Meanwhile, just as the execution of Davis was rescheduled, the Philly D.A.’s office called on the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the death sentence against Jamal.

While supporting efforts to use whatever legal venues are open to him, we call not for a “new trial” in the bourgeois courts, as the liberals and reformists vainly do, but to mobilize the power of the working class in action to free Mumia Abu-Jamal. In Brazil our comrades of the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil have twice sparked work stoppages by teachers in the state of Rio de Janeiro demanding Mumia’s freedom, the latest on May 7 of this year.

Troy Davis is innocent, but Troy Davis is black and this is capitalist America, where black oppression is “enshrined” in the system of racist repression. Over 40 percent of the people on this country’s death row are black. The death penalty is a direct legacy of slavery, and a symbol of how the unfinished Civil War left black people, North and South, branded and condemned as a specially oppressed color caste at the bottom rung of those whose toil enriches the exploiters.

The one force more powerful than the determination of America’s “justice” system to kill an innocent black man is the international working class. In Georgia, Willie Seymore, president of Local 1414 of the International Longshoremen’s Association spoke to a meeting of more than 300 people at Savannah State University on October 13 protesting the scheduled execution of Troy Davis. From San Francisco, California, the president of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10, Melvin MacKay, sent a letter to the Georgia Board of Pardons, noting that “the death penalty, a leftover from the days of slavery, is used with a strong racial bias,” and calling to stop the execution of Davis.

But much more is needed: the power of the working class must be brought to bear. Yet the labor tops and civil rights groups leaders are mobilizing their members and resources to vote for Democrat Barack Obama, who defends the racist death penalty and tells those who protest against the racist injustice system that they must “respect” the verdict of the courts (as in the case of Sean Bell who was murdered in a hail of 50 bullets from New York City cops who were all acquitted).

Class struggle against the legal lynchers is our last and best hope, and it is not too late to mobilize it. As the execution of Troy Davis looms, the Internationalist Group and League for the Fourth International urgently call on organized labor to mobilize working-class action across the country and internationally to demand freedom for Troy Davis and all class-war prisoners, and to smash the racist death penalty! 

Down with the Democrats and Republicans –
Capitalist Parties of War and Racist Repression

Forge a Revolutionary Workers Party!

To contact the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International, send e-mail to: internationalistgroup@msn.com