An Open Letter to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles

Dear Sirs and/or Madams:

I hope you will sleep well Wednesday night.

I won’t.

At least a million other Americans won’t.

You see, we fear we’ll have blood on our hands, the blood of a possibly innocent man put to death by the state. The truth is we are the state, each one of us. Each one of us will kill Troy Davis.

I don’t want to kill Troy Davis, but unfortunately, I do not have a say. Now only you, the members of the board who can grant Davis clemency, can have a say.

It might prove difficult, I understand. It’s hard to admit you might be wrong, or that the system that you represent may be flawed. It is easier to believe in the structure of the system than look directly at its problems and contemplate their terrible meaning.

But refusal to consider a flaw in the system will send a man to his death. Perhaps it’s immaterial to you whether Troy Davis actually committed the crime; that the system said he did may be sufficient for you, and that fact alone might erase any doubt.

But eight men in the state of Georgia – all of them black – have been exonerated due to DNA evidence. All of them were wrongly convicted, at least in part, by eyewitness testimony.

And shaky eyewitness testimony is all you have in this case. As much as we want to believe that our eyes are the final arbiter, with these eight men freed from your justice system because of the undeniable proof of DNA, we know eyes are easily tricked.

Be brave, Sirs and Madams of the Georgia Board of Paroles and Pardons. For the sake of all of us, be brave. Be the first board to take a step back and admit a flaw in the system. Be the first board to say that the risk of this mistake, the irreversibility of this possible mistake, requires the extraordinary step of stopping the gears of justice before they have gone too far for return.

Be brave and admit that the system is flawed, and that no person deserves to lose his life to us, the people, if there is room for any doubt at all.

Be brave, people of the board, be brave and see that the sin of giving an innocent man a life sentence is far less than that of executing an innocent man, because at least, if he did not commit the crime, a man with a life sentence can be freed.

Be brave and halt the execution of Troy Davis. Allow us all, as a nation, to sleep on Wednesday night, free from the fear of the blood of an innocent man.


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