By ELAINE MATTHEWS

Photo: flickr.com/Marie Aschehoug Clauteaux
A mural in Paris, France, supports Troy Davis, a man who was killed by the state of Georgia. Photo: flickr.com/Marie Aschehoug Clauteaux

Troy Anthony Davis, a 42-year-old black man, was put to death by the state of Georgia on September 21, 2011 after 20 years of court cases and appeals leading all the way to the United States Supreme Court. He was convicted of killing Mark MacPhail, an off-duty police officer, in 1989, but maintained his innocence until his death sentence was carried out. Thirty-four U.S. states use the death penalty for very serious crimes like murder.

Many believe that Troy Davis did not receive fair legal representation during his trial in 1991. Attorneys point out that there was no physical evidence linking Davis to the crime scene and no murder weapon was found, creating doubt as to whether Davis was guilty of the murder.

Young supporters at a rally for Troy Davis in 2008.  Photo: Courtesy of Amnesty International Southern Regional Office
Young supporters at a 2008 rally for Troy Davis. Photo: Courtesy of Amnesty International’s Southern Regional Office

The case of Troy Davis prompted protests, rallies, vigils and debates around the world. Groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch believe that the death penalty is wrong under any circumstance because it is ‘unique in its cruelty and finality’ and is subject to errors and prejudice. Others, who believed there was too much doubt about Davis’ guilt, thought that the death penalty was wrong in this particular case.

Ben Jealous, president of the National Organization for the Advancement of Colored People, said that this case “brought about conversations in millions of American households, helping to change hearts and minds about capital punishment.”

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Death penalty: execution by a government for a crime. 139 of the world’s countries have abolished the death penalty.