“Writing about Troy Davis for The Atlantic online.” – Emily L. Hauser

[Troy Davis has eight days left.  Here is Emily L. Hauser’s beautiful piece which was published in The Atlantic online.  -ABLxx]

I am beyond pleased and deeply humbled to say that The Atlantic online accepted an essay that I wrote this morning about the Troy Davis case. As a language nerd and something of a bluestocking by nature, the idea that my name is anywhere associated with The Atlantic blows my mind. The fact that the piece in question may help Troy Davis in some small way kind of brings me to my knees.

Here’s the top of the piece, but please click through to read the rest — I want to give The Atlantic a lot of love today, and would be so happy for you to read the whole thing. And if you haven’t yet had a chance to act to help Mr. Davis in his clemency bid, please do so (click here for links, etc) — there are only six days left until his clemency hearing, only eight until his execution date.

Explaining the Death Penalty to My Children

“How does it work?” my eight-year-old asked last Saturday morning . “Will he just stand there and have to — let them kill him?”

She was asking me about Troy Davis, a man on Georgia’s death row who is slated to be executed on September 21.

There’s been much talk about Davis in our house, so the night before, I’d tried to explain: Found guilty of killing a police officer, Davis was sentenced to death in 1991, but in the meantime, the case against him has fallen apart.

Seven out of the nine people who said it was him have “recanted” or changed their testimony, I told my daughter and her older brother, explaining what that meant. “What about the other two?” my son asked.

27 replies
  1. 1
  2. 2
    Sam Houston says:

    excellent work

  3. 3
    Poopyman says:

    Yes, they do grow up so fast. Beautifully written, Ms. H.

  4. 4

    Thank you so, so much for posting this here, too, ABL. I can only believe that spreading the news as far and as wide as we can will help.

  5. 5
    rikyrah says:

    thank you for this. this case is all kinds of wrong. they are going to kill a man whose case is full of holes.

  6. 6
    Martin says:

    There’s been much talk about Davis in our house, so the night before, I’d tried to explain: Found guilty of killing a police officer, Davis was sentenced to death in 1991, but in the meantime, the case against him has fallen apart.

    Doesn’t matter. He refused to buy medical insurance, so the same consequence applies.

  7. 7
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    I’m in tears. What a beautiful, wrenching piece of writing, Emily. Thanks to ABL for sharing it, to you for writing it, and especially to you for raising two such extraordinary kids.

    And congratulations for having your essay published by The Atlantic, and congratulations to The Atlantic for having the good taste and good sense to publish your essay.

  8. 8
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    It’s just horrible. AND — it’s in Georgia :-(

  9. 9
    Svensker says:

    Wow. Thanks Emily and ABL. Jesus.

  10. 10
    superluminar says:

    and congratulations to The Atlantic for having the good taste and good sense to publish your essay.

    +1. So righteous. Hope this dude ends up ok.

  11. 11
    LT says:

    Good work, EH, and thanks, ABL.

  12. 12
    Moeiz says:

    So? What about the other two?

  13. 13
    Ash Can says:

    Brava, Emily. And thanks, ABL.

  14. 14
    Neutron Flux says:

    Wow. Very nice.

  15. 15
    hildebrand says:

    An absolutely heartbreaking piece. My great thanks. I, too, hope that Mr. Davis is granted clemency. I have written to the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles – my God, I hope they listen.

  16. 16
    Jenn says:

    Tears. Just tears. Hug your kids!, and beautiful writing.

  17. 17
    Alison says:

    @Moeiz: Try clicking through and reading the whole piece, doof.

    Emily, this was beautiful in its agony and honesty. I can’t imagine trying to explain something like this to a child, but it seems like you’ve done the best one can hope to do.

  18. 18
    The Commish says:

    Good piece.

    Having read for a couple of hours on the case (which I’m not saying is a lot), I think Troy Davis probably did the deed. The idea that the state should be empowered to snuff out a person who “probably did the deed” remains a volcanic obscenity.

  19. 19
    jnc says:

    I think the death penalty should be abolished. Period.

    But Davis’ guilt was established by a jury of 12 people who heard all of the evidence (except for physical evidence on Davis’ clothing which was excluded from evidence because of 4th amendment issues) and unanimously concluded he was guilty. Seven of those 12 jurors were African Americans.

    People who are persuaded that there is reasonable doubt after reading a blog post should really think about why we have trials and a jury system in the first place. Hey if you can get all you need to know from reading 500 words, why not let everybody on facebook vote for guilt or innocence?

    And the 7 or 9 witnesses have recanted is just lame beyond words. So they lied under oath but we’re supposed to believe them now? And, last time I checked two eyewitnesses were plenty.

  20. 20
    Mnemosyne says:

    People who are persuaded that there is reasonable doubt after reading a blog post should really think about why we have trials and a jury system in the first place. Hey if you can get all you need to know from reading 500 words, why not let everybody on facebook vote for guilt or innocence?

    Yes, that’s why OJ Simpson was welcomed back into society with open arms — because everyone knows that the jury system is infalliable and if 12 people heard all of the evidence and found him not guilty, that proves his innocence beyond a doubt.

  21. 21
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    Any SCRAP of doubt should be sufficient to delay/defer/overturn the death penalty. Presumably he stays behind bars without parole while the case, the witnesses, the DNA and the recantations, are all evaluated. I truly cannot think of a single reason to proceed with the execution next week (that’s even assuming I supported the D.P., which I do not) and can think of many reasons to hold off.

  22. 22
    (another) Josh says:

    Yeah, Mnemo, that’s also why no death row inmate has ever been exonerated evar, nor has any capital case been reversed on appeal. And cops never coerce testimony nor do prosecutors conceal evidence. Nope. Never happens.

  23. 23
    Jnc says:

    Mnem… The people who questioned the OJ verdict without hearing the evidence are as ignorant as people who question the Davis verdict without hearing the evidence.

  24. 24
    Ruckus says:

    The people on the jury did not hear good evidence. Eye witness testimony has been proven time and again to be faulty. Is that why you don’t like the death penalty? If so why do you think Davis got a fair trial? It sure does not sound like it. But we are not trying him, anymore than OJ. What most of us are saying is that the trial stunk. Big time. Witnesses are saying they were coerced by the police. But it’s OK that’s all he gets? Twelve people made a decision based on no or very badly presented physical evidence, and eye witness testimony that is at the very least suspect but it’s OK, the system works/worked so he gets what he most likely doesn’t deserve?

    Except the system fails all the time and when it does it should error on the side of guilty goes free, not innocent dies. It’s why we have appeal after appeal in death penalty cases and why the death penalty should be abolished. It is cruel, brutal and unnecessary. It is not a deterrent. It is not something a civilized society needs and it makes this country considerably less for having it.

  25. 25
    Jnc says:

    Rukus… I don’t know whether he got a fair trial. What I do know is that people who have read a few blog posts about the trial don’t have a clue.

    If someone sat down and read the entire record of the trial, the appellate briefs, and the transcript of post appeal innocence hearing, they might be able to offer an informed opinion.

    Agreed that death penalty is barbaric.

  26. 26
    Paul in KY says:

    Emily, only because it was you did I go to the place that employs McArglebargle. Very well written, as usual.

    I think you are raising 2 very smart & considerate kids.

  27. 27
    Dudley Sharp says:

    Troy Davis: Another misleading anti death penalty campaign
    Dudley Sharp

    Based upon the evidence presented in the June, 2010 hearing, it was clear that the federal district court would rule against Davis and that SCOTUS would not intervene.

    This shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone that knew the facts of the case.

    Anti death penalty folks, were, of course, fed a bunch of nonsense by their leadership and they simply accepted it.

    As I wrote 6/25/10

    Innocence claims will offer no reprieve for Troy Davis
    Dudley Sharp

    Based upon the media reports, alone, of the two day hearing of June 2010, just as I suspect Davis’ attorneys have known all along, the appellate case cannot prevail in overturning the findings that Troy

    Davis is guilty of the murder of Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail.

    What happened in the two day hearing was very ordinary, if you are aware of anti death penalty nonsense. (1)

    Sylvester “Redd” Coles’ “Confessions”

    The blockbuster witnesses who were going to testify that the “real murderer” Sylvester “Redd” Coles had confessed to them were not allowed to testify, because Davis’ attorneys refused to call Coles to testify, thereby rendering these witnesses in possession of hearsay evidence and, therefore, not able to testify.

    Well, Judge Moore did allow, wrongly, one of them, Anthony Hargrove, to testify. The judge “said that unless Coles is called to the stand, he might give (Hargrove’s) hearsay testimony “no weight whatsoever.”

    Of course, Davis’ attorneys didn’t call Coles. Davis’ attorneys made sure Hargrove’s testimony as well as the other “confession” witnesses will have no weight.

    This will become part of the anti death penalty PR machine – the anti death penalty folks will blame the system for not allowing the “truth” to come out, by muzzling these witnesses, even though Davis’ attorneys had to do this intentionally, knowing that the witnesses couldn’t be heard, because of the hearsay rule.

    The defense couldn’t call Coles, because he would have been a strong witness to rebut his alleged confessions, therefore making things worse for Davis. I seems obvious that the defense made a statement as to how fragile and unreliable these “confession” witnesses were that Davis’ attorneys refused to call Coles.

    Hargrove being wrongly allowed to testify must have been a surprise.

    “Recantation” Witnesses

    The additional problem for Davis is this: There are solid witnesses against Davis who did not recant.

    The “recantation” witnesses claims that the police pressured or threatened them into falsely testifying make no sense.

    In addition ” . . . the majority(of the Georgia Supreme Court) finds that ‘most of the witnesses to the crime who have allegedly recanted have merely stated that they now do not feel able to identify the shooter.’ “One of the affidavits ‘might actually be read so as to confirm trial testimony that Davis was the shooter.’ From “Troy Davis: Both sides need to be told”, below.

    First, there were enough witnesses against Davis – the state had a solid case – therefore there was no reason to put lying witnesses on the stand. Even if we presume that some were pressured and threatened into false statements, both police and prosecutors knew, before trial, that they need not risk putting any such perjuring witnesses on the stand. They had enough evidence without them.

    Why risk perjured testimony when you don’t need it? They wouldn’t have.

    Secondly, the non recantation witnesses, the police investigators, and prosecutors have been consistent from the beginning of the case – those witnesses haven’t recanted, and police and prosecutors have testified that there were no threats or pressure for false testimony and those consistent, non recanting witnesses gave truthful statements without pressure or threats.

    Thirdly, there is no evidence that the investigating officers or the prosecutors had ever been involved in such illegal activities before and the non recantation witnesses give more weight to the position that police and prosecutors did not pressure or threaten for false testimony and to the proposition that the recantations were the lies.

    Judges are very aware of false testimony and how pressure can be applied to produce it, by community activists, such as anti death penalty folks.

    Judges are aware that pressure is a two sided coin and they must consider both sides of it and how that may effect credibility. In a case such as this, the evidence is such that

    Davis cannot prevail.

    Credibility – this says it all.

    “(Troy) Davis’ legal team also summoned Benjamin Gordon, who testified that he saw Sylvester “Redd” Coles shoot and kill the officer.” (2)

    Gordon, who is incarcerated and has at least six prior felony convictions, said he never came forward because he did not trust the police and feared what Coles might do to him or his family in retaliation.
    “Is there any doubt in your mind that Redd Coles fired that shot?” Horton asked. “No, sir,” Gordon replied.
    Davis’ legal team has long maintained that Coles, who was at the scene and came forward after (Police Officer) MacPhail’s slaying and implicated Davis to police, was the actual triggerman. Coles has denied shooting MacPhail.

    Beth Attaway Burton, the state’s lead attorney, got Gordon to acknowledge he never said he saw Coles shoot MacPhail in interviews with police “or in sworn statements he gave Davis’ legal team in 2003 and 2008.”

    “What made you change your story today?” Burton asked.

    “It’s the truth,” Gordon said. ”

    I think the judge will have to weigh Gordon’s credibility similarly to that of Davis’ other supportive witnesses – ZERO.


    Note: We will hear protests that Davis’ attorneys tried to subpoena Coles the day before the hearing, but couldn’t locate him. The judge didn’t buy it saying that there was no excuse based upon them having much time to prepare for the hearing. It’s clear they didn’t want Coles. When Davis loses this appeal, he will then appeal to a higher court, which will uphold the denial.

    (1) 4 of many

    “The Innocent Executed: Deception & Death Penalty Opponents”

    The 130 (now 139) death row “innocents” scam

    “Sister Helen Prejean & the death penalty: A Critical Review”

    “Cameron Todd Willingham: Another Media Meltdown”, A Collection of Articles

    (2) All quotes from this article:
    “Witnesses back off testimony against Troy Davis”, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 23, 2010 www(DOT)ajc.com/news/atlanta/witnesses-back-off-testimony-555778.html?cxntlid=daylf_artr

    Other references:

    Troy Davis: Both sides need to be told
    Dudley Sharp, contact info below
    May, 2009

    Anyone interested in justice will demand a fair, thorough look at both sides of this or any case. Here is the side that the pro Troy Davis faction is, intentionally, not presenting.

    (1) Davis v Georgia, Georgia Supreme Court, 3/17/08
    Full ruling www(DOT)gasupreme.us/pdf/s07a1758.pdf
    Summary www(DOT)gasupreme.us/op_summaries/mar_17.pdf

    ” . . . the majority finds that ‘most of the witnesses to the crime who have allegedly recanted have merely stated that they now do not feel able to identify the shooter.’ “One of the affidavits ‘might actually be read so as to confirm trial testimony that Davis was the shooter.’ ”

    The murder occurred in 1989.

    (2) “THE PAROLE BOARD’S CONSIDERATION OF THE TROY ANTHONY DAVIS CASE” , 9/22/08, www(DOT)pap.state.ga.us/opencms/opencms/

    “After an exhaustive review of all available information regarding the Troy Davis case and after considering all possible reasons for granting clemency, the Board has determined that clemency is not warranted.”

    “The Board has now spent more than a year studying and considering this case. As a part of its proceedings, the Board gave Davisâ?? attorneys an opportunity to present every witness they desired to support their allegation that there is doubt as to Davisâ?? guilt. The Board heard each of these witnesses and questioned them closely. In addition, the Board has studied the voluminous trial transcript, the police investigation report and the initial statements of all witnesses. The Board has also had certain physical evidence retested and Davis interviewed.”

    (3) A detailed review of the extraordinary consideration that Davis was given for all of his claims,
    by Chatham County District Attorney Spencer Lawton http(COLON)//tinyurl.com/46c73l

    Troy Davis’ claims are undermined, revealing the dishonesty of the Davis advocates . Look, particularly, at pages 4-7, which show the reasoned, thoughtful and generous reviews of Davis’ claims, as well a how despicable the one sided cynical pro Troy Davis effort is.

    (4) Officer Mark Allen MacPhail: The family of murdered Officer MacPhail fully believes that Troy Davis murdered their loved one and that the evidence is supportive of that opinion. www(DOT)fop9.net/markmacphail/debunkingthemyths.cfm

    Not simply an emotional and understandable plea for justice, but a detailed factual review of the case.

    (5) “Death and Dying”, by Cliff Green, LIKE THE DEW, 7/22/09,

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