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Editor's Note: Davis' death illuminates need for system reform

As I walked into my first class yesterday, I was immediately struck by the emotion and anger of two classmates who were talking in the corner.

“I can’t believe it ended like that,” exclaimed a female classmate. “It’s a failure of our justice system!” declared a strong-spoken political science major.

 It didn’t take me long to recognize what they were discussing. In fact, I had spent much of the night on the phone with friends across the country and online reading posts about this very topic.

The night prior to my class, Troy Davis, a black man who had spent 22 years on death row, was executed in the state of Georgia. His crime: allegedly killing a police officer who was working security at a Burger King.

But since his original conviction, seven of the nine eyewitnesses who testified against him have recanted their stories.

The last few days have been full of public outcry asking the Supreme Court to grant a stay of execution. Everyone from former President George W. Bush to Desmond Tutu to the Rev. Al Sharpton called the remaining evidence against

Davis not enough to validate a death sentence.

Despite those protests, Davis lost his life.

Unfortunately, I know that for some of you this is the first time you’re hearing Davis’ story. While it’s understandable that being on a college campus lends itself to isolation from current events outside this town, not having heard of this case is unacceptable.

You see, if we want to harvest the power of public outrage, knowledge truly is power. Although Davis’ battle had been fought for decades, many of his suddenly vocal supporters weren’t aware of the injustice being dealt to him until recent weeks.

In order to ensure Davis’ death is not in vain, we must continue the dialogue and exist in a national discussion of what remains one of the country’s most unjust policies — the death penalty.

The advent of social media has made it all too easy to jump on board with the cause of the week. We were outraged by the execution of Stanley Tookie Williams as well as the treatment of the Jena Six. But that excitement and push for social action quickly vanished. If we aim to carry on the fight for justice, it’s essential that we look beyond the individual cases and start addressing the underlying issues.

Let’s not allow Davis to become another cause of the week. Let’s use this opportunity to reform a justice system that in fact impedes the chance that poor, black males actually receive justice.

 

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