In 1989, the State of Georgia sentenced Troy Davis to death for the murder of a police officer. No physical evidence linked Troy to the crime, and the witness testimony was contradictory. Nearly a million people signed a petition to stay his execution, and the NAACP, the Innocence Project, Amnesty International, President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu all pled for clemency. Nevertheless, on September 21, 2011, the State of Georgia killed Troy.
On the morning of his death, Troy asked that this message be shared with the world: “The struggle for justice doesn’t end with me. This struggle is for all the Troy Davises who came before me and all the ones who will come after me.” Today, more than a decade since Troy’s death, a study done by the National Registry of Exonerations found that innocent Black people are still seven times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder than innocent white people.
Sometimes it would be easier to turn away than to hear the news of one more Black person killed by injustice. But today’s reading reminds us that Jesus’ followers are called to join his stand for justice. The Lenten journey asks us not to harden our hearts to the frustration we feel when we hear yet another account of injustice; instead, we can allow it to be transformed into new energy to answer the challenge of Troy Davis’s last words before his execution: “Continue to fight this fight.”
- Am I willing during this Lenten season to hear the voice of Jesus speaking through Troy Davis and others like him?
- Am I willing to feel a holy frustration that inspires me to fight for justice?
Patrick Saint-Jean, S.J., is an amateur of life, a psychoanalyst by training, and a passionate practitioner of Ignatian spirituality and Black Spirituality. He is a Jesuit in formation at Creighton University in Omaha, NE where he teaches in the department of psychology.