Troy Anthony Davis
"Coming close to death, I found out what faith really is."
By Kavita Chhibber
(A Kavita Media Presentation. Please email comments here.
You can also contact Kavita with your feedback, by dialing 678-720-1260. Selected comments will be broadcast on our webcast.)
He has been on death row for over nineteen years, convicted of a murder he says he did not commit. In the last one year Troy Anthony Davis has come incredibly close to being executed twice and unless the US Supreme Court decides to give him a second chance he may still be executed. To read his story CLICK HERE.
In a conversation that took place on 21st September 2008, Troy Davis shares some moments from his life, his unshakeable faith in God and how the smallest of blessings are deeply appreciated by him. Here are some excerpts…
You were convicted of Officer Mark MacPhail’s murder when you were barely 20. You had never been in jail before, you come from a family that pretty much walked the straight and narrow path and is very religious. It must have been tough and scary.
Yes, it was a scary situation to be arrested and then accused of such a heinous crime but then I have been the type of person who could adapt to any situation. Of course it took a while to try and adapt to certain situations in the jail, but I put my faith in God and stayed to myself.
When I first got locked up they put me in an isolated cell to punish me and not with the rest of the population, for six months. They said it was for my own safety, but actually it was a way for the guards to get easy access to give me daily threats. But I just kept on praying for them and asking God to forgive them and God just kept me strong while I was in the isolated cell. They finally put me with the rest of the population. I was able to adjust though not totally but when you are a spiritually and mentally strong person, the things that you go through don’t seem to affect you as severely as they do others. But I still had a lot of fear about what might happen.
|Officer Mark MacPhail
Quite a few years ago I used to have dreams and in my dreams I would be facing situations that scared me and I’d wake up and dissect those dreams and wonder what they meant and what had I been thinking about before I went to sleep. I realized that most of the time I would be sitting and reading about my case and getting frustrated wondering what would happen to my case and often these dreams would be telling me that the worst might happen. But then I started praying more, going to church a lot more; I started to learn more about God, about spirituality, trying to meditate on His words and see how they applied to my life. From there my faith increased more than ever before. As I grew into a mature man, I had a better understanding of life and I decided why fear man because man can only kill the flesh. If I’m going to believe in God then that’s where I’m going to put my faith, and I’m going to believe everything He says in the scriptures-that he has plans for me. If I had faith in Him the plans will come true and even if I don’t get the blessings that I’m praying for it does not mean that God has failed me.
So many people who have not prayed for 30 years tell me they have started praying for me, supporting me, and continuing to turn towards Him, and they are all praying with one accord asking God for justice for me. If the worst happened to me, may be my purpose in life is to bring people closer to God. So many people have turned back to God for me-and are continuing to seek understanding through God, and believe that God will guide them to find a purpose in life to serve others.
Your family has never given up on you. Your sister Martina has battled breast cancer for years, and fought for your life and you remain a very close knit family. She tells me you are quite the mama’s boy.
My family always made sure that that they were there for me, that they came to visit me and that was what increased my strength and mental capacity to adjust to the situation. We’ve always been very spiritual because my grandfather was a minister and our faith in God was always very strong. So we don’t believe in stressing over things that man has planned for us because we know that man doesn’t have the final say over anything. So it basically goes back to the faith in your creator and to the parents that you have, as they prepare you for life and let you know that family is the most important thing you will ever have, that the family will always be there for you.
I’m a mama’s boy. People joke with me about it all the times. Even the guards here in the prison when they hear me talk about my family and how even now I will lay my head on my mom’s shoulder, they will say-you are a mama’s boy and I say-Yeah and I’m proud of it!”
|Portrait of young Troy Davis.
Did you study further in jail? I believe you are very involved in issues dealing with the youth. When you look back at your life what are the lessons learnt that you want to pass on to the younger generation.
I haven’t earned any further degrees because here in Georgia death row they don’t offer you any college courses. You have to have someone pay for you to take correspondence courses if you want to study further. They used to offer inmates a chance to do their GED, but they stopped even that two years after I came here, and I had already earned my GED.
I was a good student and I believe a nice person, and a spiritual person, but I made a few bad choices, hanging with the wrong crowd to try and fit in as I was shy. I thought it was cool, but those very friends let me down and I’m in jail because of them. I decided to come out of my sadness and to dedicate the time spent in prison to try and help encourage other kids to stay away from the wrong crowd, make better decisions, always listen to their parents and stay in school. Education is the key to everything. The one thing that man cannot take away from you is your knowledge. I want people to not only learn from my experience but try to make the world better.
I decided I’d try to focus on writing letters and trying to talk to people how to identify when their kids are heading in the wrong direction and try to have kids realize that they should listen more to what their parents are telling them about life and about friends. I want them to learn from my mistakes by not choosing the wrong friends, thinking its okay to hang out with the” cool’ crowd, but try to find their own identity, stand on their own feet and be an original instead of a follower. I read a lot but I think if you sit back and think more than you read, you can identify a lot of problems that people face in the world.
It saddens me to see that the biggest issue going on with society is that there are too many parents too busy to take the time out to spend with their kids. Families used to sit together at the dinner table and eat-now you don’t have that. Most parents are single parents, working so much they don’t have time to sit down with their kids and find out if their kids have done their home work. They want to be parents but they are too busy to be with their kids. I write letters and communicate with them so that I can make a difference.
So throughout my time here, that is what I have been dedicating myself to and it has helped me to, I guess you could say, not worry about my situation. I look at it as-I can either take this time to be bitter, or point fingers or I can take this time to make my life seem better by making other people’s life better.
Some times I do communicate with other inmates but not too often because I don’t want to be caught up in trying to make friends in prison although I’m close to some guys. I want to spend my time doing something productive. In prison life you can sit back all day and gossip and swap stories, but that’s not me. I try to spend my time wisely, do something productive with it.
I’m adjusted in the prison system in a way where I can seek to help others. I seek to turn kids away from prison and that has given me a positive outlook on life and really inspired me to believe that what I am doing may help change their future in some positive way, and when I think of that, then the stress that is around me kind of falls on the way side a little bit.
I get many letters, and initially people just write to have a pen pal but once they start communicating and put a human side to the relationship, they are amazed that I can still crack jokes and my sense of humor is still there.
When you were denied clemency on 12th September, clearing the way for the execution to take place under the strangest of circumstances, in what obviously seemed a pre-meditated decision and a sham hearing, were you upset or scared?
Not really. I’m just a little frustrated because it seems that no matter what I try to do, certain people in power are just so corrupt that they are going to continue to hide the truth. It shows me you still have people in this world who would rather sacrifice an innocent person just to save their system and I think that’s mainly what it has been about.
When I look at the Parole Board’s decision, I have to reflect on the people who are on the Parole Board. You have ex-GBI, ex-FBI agents, and ex prosecuting District Attorneys. And I think they denied me clemency not because they didn’t believe the witnesses. I think they denied me clemency because then they would have to bring out into the open, tactics the police uses during interrogation and for them, since they know those tactics, to rule in my favor would mean that they would have to accept the fact that these tactics were wrong and they couldn’t do that. Being in law enforcement they probably used the same tactics.
The MacPhail family has hated you for close to two decades. They are obviously very angry at the attention this case is getting and the support you have received from the Pope to Desmond Tutu, to now President Jimmy Carter. They are totally convinced you pulled the trigger. Yet neither you nor your family seems to have any hatred or bitterness against them.
I understand their frustration and their anger and in any different situation I could have accepted it but knowing that I did nothing wrong and I’m innocent I wish that they would at least take the time and think - Wait a minute, if this many people are coming forward and saying that they lied (7 out of the 9 witnesses, and of the remaining two, one is the prime suspect) then something may be wrong. They should then go to the D.A and say-look I want you to re open the case and give me some information and guarantee that you have the right man.
We receive blessings when we forgive those who try to bring harm to us, who hate us or do us wrong. All these years God has kept me strong, given me endurance. I have received His blessings though others may not see it that way, but the fact is that God has kept me safe all these years, he kept my family in my life, he kept me in good health. Today my spirit is so high, not because of man but because of God being in my life.
People ask me if I hate those ex friends who put me in jail and I tell them no- because to hate some one would only make me bitter. You have to forgive others, if you want your life to be blessed by God, if you want God to forgive you for something you did because we are all born sinners any ways.
Its interesting your sister received a call from death row inmates from San Quentin state prison in California where many of them are praying for you. Did she tell you about that? It’s quite touching in a strange kind of way.
Yes Martina told me about it and that was really heart felt. I called the young lady who had arranged the phone call and told her how much I appreciate it.
What if the worst was to happen to you?
|Keeping Hope Alive: Activism for Troy Davis.
People have asked me if the worst was to happen to me what I would want the world to know. I tell them that when you wear those shirts which say I’m Troy Davis, there is a meaning behind it. The purpose behind the shirts is for people to realize that they too can be in the situation that I’m in and one day they can get locked up, falsely accused and sent to prison. Everyone is a potential Troy Davis. I also want people to know that there may be more people like Troy Davis that are sitting in the prisons. I want my supporters to help them as well. If the worst was to happen to me, I don’t want my supporters to fade away in their sorrow. I want them to go out and say-You know what? We are going to find out the other Troy Davises and free them. We may not have freed this one, but we’re going to free the rest of them because if we don’t take a stand, stay together now, then this system will continue to over power society and before you know it you are going to have twice as many prisons as you have schools. Right now you have way too many prisons compared to schools as it is.
|Troy Davis with family members.
You came very close to being executed last July. Were you afraid the first time it happened with barely 23 hours to go?
I think I didn’t know what faith really was until last year. I asked the lord to take away all my fears and my worries and carry me through this and give me the strength I need to endure this. The day before my scheduled execution I don’t remember exactly what had happened but I wasn’t worried about anything. It was as if the thought of being executed 24 hours later never crossed my mind that day. I was having fun as though it was just a regular day in my life. God had erased all those fears and it was not until a couple of months later when someone asked me how did it feel, in those 24 hours before they had scheduled to kill you and I stopped to think about it. It dawned on me that yes you are right; I actually came 23 and half hours before death. I thought about it a little bit more and I think all I can say is that I finally found out what faith is.
Is there any thing that you worry about, if you were to be executed on the 23rd of September?
I think my biggest fear is how it would affect my family. I worry about my mother-she loves me so so much. I worry about Martina. If Martina gets emotionally torn about my situation fighting breast cancer, her cancer could come back real strong. I don’t dare to think what it would do to her son if Martina was not around to see him graduate, get married and have kids. My family holds me in such high regard and loves me so much. When I’m hurting, they hurt; when I’m strong they are strong.
The only thing that gets to me is hearing the people who love me and who I love cry, to see people sad, and crying because they are sad about me. That gets me emotional and makes me hurt because I can’t take away their pain.
And now two days before execution, do you still have the same faith?
Yes I really do. I believe that through God, all things are possible. To have hundreds of thousands of people praying for me, I believe the angels in heaven are smiling down on me and God too has a big smile on His face because people love God’s children-and that is what I am-one of God’s children.
On 23rd September barely 90 minutes before Troy Davis was to be executed, the US Supreme Court after an emergency meeting put a stay on Troy Davis’s execution. His faith in God seems to have worked a miracle yet again for him.
All Material © Copyright KavitaChhibber.com and respective photographers.
E-mail this article