odd time signatures

Troy Davis Has Been Executed

3:15PM: In 45 minutes, plus one, Troy Davis will have received a lethal injection of a drug meant for dogs. This will happen because the state of Georgia refuses to acknowledge there may have been a mistake.

I think back on my own experience. Would anything have changed if that man were gassed? If John Philip Hendrix had lived only as long as it took for his appeals to be exhausted?

Nothing will change. I write this:

The family will not know peace at 7:01 PM. Only the same grief they already carry.

I know this. That grief never ebbs. You’d think 40 years later it would be an afterthought, and yet, every single time I’m confronted with another one of these moments where we’re told there will be “closure” after the killer is dead, I know there is no closure.

What is closure, anyway? A forgetting? A bloodletting? A moment where, in a collective rush of bloodlust we become what we condemn? Is that closure?

3:52PM: I clean the dishwasher, feed the dog. I wonder how it can possibly be that I am doing these things while, in another part of the country that I belong to, that I pledge allegiance to, they are preparing a man who we do not know, and who may be innocent, to die.

How must it feel to prepare for one’s death at a specific time of day? At the specified moment, no heart attack striking or cancer sucking the life out of a person, but someone looking down from a bench and specifying the time and manner of their death? How do you prepare for that?

The world watches. Troy Davis has become a cause not only here in the United States, but around the world. Rome, Italy. Paris, France.

A last minute appeal to the US Supreme Court for a stay has been filed. We wait, willing word to come that will stop this from becoming real. I make coffee, deliberately, carefully. It’s something to do, something that sets a measure in the middle of the surreal, says yes, you’re here, you’re human.

I pray. If I could issue that stay myself I would but I can’t so I pray it into being.

It is 3:59pm. No word anywhere that I can see. Silent television, silent networks, silent night.

Less than sixty seconds. How does that happen?

4:00PM. My stomach is in knots, coffee cooling next to my fingers. If I type, I can write this differently, I can make a different outcome, I can know that at 4:01 Troy Davis will not be dead.

Nothing will close. Nothing will change. But a little bit of our collective souls escape.

4:02PM. It is likely done. My daughter comes in, with the beautiful get-well card she’s made for my mother, who is recovering from a fall.

Life goes on. She wants ice cream. I want Troy Davis to be alive. We both want. Neither of us will get what we want, I think, but we should be talking about ice cream and not about killing people. We should be talking about life, and light. Not death and murder.

4:06PM. Just received word the Supreme Court issued a stay of execution for Troy Davis. execution has been delayed pending a decision on the appeal by the Supreme Court. There may be hope for us.

4:16PM. Unclear as to what is happening. All we know is he is not dead. Yet. Email is going crazy but no one knows anything more than that. He is not dead. Yet.

4:24PM. Still no word, but this from Melissa Harris-Perry:

Please. Please let there be another way. Please let us be a better people. Please.

Yes. Please let us be a better people. Let us not kill someone on the word of witnesses who recanted and others with a self-interest in someone else being the guy who shot Mr. MacPhail. Please. Let us be a better people. A better country. One where we don’t celebrate our government injecting drugs intended to euthanize animals into another person.


4:41PM. Word is that there is a delay in the execution while the Supreme Court reviews the appeal petition. It could be minutes or hours. If the Supreme Court chooses not to issue a stay, then the execution will go forward.

Meanwhile, Lawrence Brewer was executed at 7:21pm in Texas. There was no question as to his guilt. He was a white supremacist who dragged a black man to his death, chained behind his pickup truck. It was an egregious crime. It doesn’t matter. Guilt isn’t the issue. Killing him will not change what he did. Killing him only compounds it.

The victim’s name was James Byrd, Jr. His family did not want him to be executed.

James Byrd’s family has asked that Brewer’s life be spared.

“You can’t fight murder with murder,” Ross Byrd, 32, the victim’s son told Reuters on Tuesday. “Life in prison would have been fine. I know he can’t hurt my daddy anymore. I wish the state would take in mind that this isn’t what we want.”

The state doesn’t take anything in mind that isn’t what the state wants, Mr. Byrd. But I admire your effort to spare Mr. Brewer’s life.

5:24 PM. DemocracyNow! has a live feed at the prison. Many, many sirens suddenly rise up from nowhere. Reporters say this is not a good sign. I agree. The family of the victim says the Supreme Court has told them they will have a decision by 8:30PM. I’m curious as to why they would be told such a thing.

Victims aren’t the issue here. I know politicians want you to think they are but they’re not. We’re not. The issue is justice. The issue is what we’re willing to do as a collective people for revenge.

The cause is as simple as the bumper sticker I used to see as a kid: Why do we kill people who kill people to prove that it’s wrong to kill people? Well, little kid. We do it because we have a really twisted, perverse idea about morality and humanity. And because it means we can take aim at minorities as often as possible.

Well, why do we?

5:30PM Still no news. Reading the comments on my Crooks and Liars post about Davis and wondering why it is some of the commenters assume this is a partisan issue? It’s not partisan. It’s a moral issue. As for me, I’m completely comfortable with the idea of forgiveness as a liberating act. Revenge, not so much.

I’m actually afraid to read the open thread comments right now over there, not because of the differing opinions, but because I may not have the emotional well to handle them. But I look. Only two comments. I imagine most folks are either watching news or unaware. How can we be unaware? Shouldn’t this be a very big huge thing, this idea of killing someone to avenge the blood of the dead?

This is why they cheer at debates for executions, I suppose. They just don’t pay attention enough to actually consider what it means to do such a thing.

5:50PM. Whatever the outcome, the police presence is frightening. There is a peaceful crowd gathered in protest, praying for Justice Thomas to issue a stay. There are many police officers on the scene as a pre-emptive act of aggression toward a peaceful crowd. It’s incredible intimidation on the part of Georgia law enforcement. (Video)

6:15PM. DemocracyNow! reporter Amy Goodman is interviewing Amnesty International official, who calls this “grotesque, obscene.” That it is. They mention the whole rigamarole around it, the last meal, the physical exam to make sure the prisoner is healthy enough to be killed, the suicide watch so the prisoner won’t kill himself before the state kills him, the menu, topped off with the cocktail of lethal drugs, Ativan optional.

Grotesque? Obscene? Yes. All of that. How about inhuman?

6:30PM. They’re reporting that Troy Davis is still in the execution chamber, witnesses still present. Maybe strapped to the gurney, maybe not.

Are you imagining this? Being a man condemned to die, poked, prodded and pronounced fit to be executed, and at 7:01pm, you’re still alive, still strapped on a gurney waiting for that pinprick to affirm that this will be your last moment on earth.

Time passes. No one knows the outcome, least of all the man strapped to the gurney.

Obscene? Yes. Ghoulish and…I don’t know. Words fail me.

7:20PM. Supreme Court will not block Troy Davis’ execution. Just in. He lives 3 hours longer than we thought. But no longer.

The crowd outside is heartbroken and grieving. As am I. As should we all be.

I will change the headline when it has been done.

7:25PM. Amy Goodman reads the specifics of how Troy Davis will be executed. The Supreme Court decision was unanimous. The crowd is singing.

The spirit of the people out here is the only thing that is worth telling you. The only thing. The rest of it, the procedure, the incredible rituals surrounding the state-sanctioned killing of a man, that’s not worth telling you, unless it will convince you that this is not the act of a civilized society.

7:30PM. Troy Davis has left us a message. Here is part of it:

So Thank you and remember I am in a place where execution can only destroy your physical form but because of my faith in God, my family and all of you I have been spiritually free for some time and no matter what happens in the days, weeks to come, this Movement to end the death penalty, to seek true justice, to expose a system that fails to protect the innocent must be accelerated. There are so many more Troy Davis’. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this Unjust system city by city, state by state and country by country.

I can’t wait to Stand with you, no matter if that is in physical or spiritual form, I will one day be announcing,


8:07pm Word is the execution will begin at 8:08PM — 11:08 EDT. Soon, Troy Davis will be dead.

They will not succeed in killing my resolve to speak against capital punishment and this incredibly barbaric, cruel, and yes, racist treatment.

To the family of Officer MacPhail, I offer my prayers for peace. You will not find it in this act, but you may find it when you find it in your heart to forgive whoever killed him, and let go. Closure will not be tonight, or tomorrow. But you may find peace.

To the rest of us, this verse from Jeremiah:

They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. “Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace.

Nor will there be, until we have done away with this horrible, awful charade some call justice.

Rest in peace, Troy Davis. The truth shall set you free.

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