Too much doubt because Troy’s conviction was based on circumstantial evidence. Too much doubt because of police brutality against witnesses. Too much doubt over whether Troy was guilty to justify keeping him in jail without a re-trial…let alone taking his life.
But the authorities went ahead and amidst the protests, desperate last minute appeals and thousands of individuals taking to the streets around the world, they strapped him to a table and killed him.
And now, in a matter of months, the whole grotesque spectacle may be played out once again; this time in the state of Missouri. The man facing the long walk to the execution chamber is Reggie Clemons, accused of being an accomplice in the murder of two young women, who were pushed off a disused bridge in 1991. Yet like Troy Davis, enormous questions remain over whether he actually has blood on his hands at all.
For one thing, there is not a shred of physical evidence linking Reggie to the crime. Then there is the horrendous litany of discrepancies on which Reggie’s conviction was based. Proven incitement of the jury, a strong possibility of police brutality, improper dismissal of black jurors and contradictory witness statements, to name just a few aspects of this case, paint a picture of at best a vehemently unsound verdict and at worst a lynching contrived amongst the racial tensions of 1990s Missouri. That is certainly the view of the juror who said that had she known the what she knew now, she would not have voted for the death penalty.
Yet in spite of the well documented failings of the legal system, Reggie has spent almost two decades on death row, coming within days of execution before being granted a temporary reprieve. Now his fate is about to be sealed: on 17 September a Special Master appointed by the Supreme Court of Missouri will spend one week reviewing the case for a final time. The Special Master can free Reggie, commute his sentence to life in prison or uphold the death sentence.
If it is the latter there will be no more chances: a date will be set, an execution chamber will be prepared and a man will be killed. A man over’s whose guilt there is simply too much doubt….again.