Connect with us

Troy Davis and Jamey Rodemeyer: By A Jury Of Our Peers



Troy Anthony Davis is dead, executed by the state of Georgia, September 21, 2011 at 10:00 pm. Ten days later, now that other stories have caught the media’s eye, Davis may seem forgotten. But in Harlem, where I live, his face stares out from orange posters plastered to lampposts along my street, announcing an emergency rally organized to save his life.

It feels like a bad dream, the kind you can’t shake for days: the final countdown to his death by the protests around the country, the supporters from all over the world, including politicians, celebrities and religious figures, asking that his life be spared so that questions about the fairness of his trial could be answered. That day, riding on the subway at seven o’clock, the original time set for his execution, I assumed Troy Davis was gone, only to arrive home and find out that he’d had another reprieve: the U.S. Supreme Court was considering his case; there was hope. Hours later, his appeal rejected, Davis was dead by lethal injection.

I didn’t know Troy Davis, and I don’t know whether he committed the crime he was convicted of or not. But I know that with Troy Davis dead, there won’t be another appeal for him, no new trial. There will be many more conversations about Troy Davis in the years to come, but the critical one, the one that might have saved his life, is over.

Execution is a curious kind of death. Some deaths are natural, others accidental, or premeditated; some people are killed out of jealousy, taken in the passion in the moment. But execution is death you can set your watch to.  Knowing that at a specific time, at a specific hour, someone is going to be killed, creates a strange psychological predicament for all involved. Regardless of whether you believe the person is guilty or not, the instinct to preserve life is suppressed; you know they are going to be murdered and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Trying to make sense of the incomprehensible, we live out the mundane aspects of our lives against the backdrop of “justice being served”: I have to go pick up the kids from school (Troy Davis will be dead in four hours), What are we having for dinner? (Troy Davis will be dead in two hours), I forgot to pick up the dry-cleaning, will you get it tomorrow? (Troy Davis will be dead an hour from now.)

The morning after Troy Davis’ execution, I kept seeing him everywhere I looked, the almost serene look on his face, the round glasses, the hint of challenge. On the posters, Davis doesn’t look like a cold-blooded killer, but like a graduate student. That doesn’t mean he couldn’t have killed that officer. But it’s easier to deal with the horror of Troy Davis’ execution if you think to yourself, despite the number of “witnesses” who recanted their testimonies after his trial, “Maybe he did do it.” And if he didn’t do it, he probably did something else. Because life can’t be this unfair, God can’t be this unfair. An innocent person can’t be executed; he must have done it.

Underneath Davis’ picture was the slogan that became part of the campaign to save his life: “I am Troy Davis.”  My mother’s maiden name was Davis, and he actually looks like a cousin of mine. When I look at those posters I want to protect Troy — many of us felt that way. But if our system chose not to protect him, why didn’t it protect justice? Justice – what we teach our 4th grade kids about in history, what our country is supposedly built on.

Just when I start feeling self-righteous about the unfairness of the death penalty, I read that Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed in Texas for the murder of James Byrd, Jr., the same day Davis was put to death. Good ol’ Texas, where at times it seems they are so eager to execute, you can practically get the death penalty for having your credit card declined. According to the Los Angeles Times, Rick Perry, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, was asked during a GOP debate about Texas’ 234 executions during his nearly 11 years as governor. He said he “never struggled” with the issue because “the state of Texas has a very thoughtful, very clear process in place.”

If there was ever a death penalty case where the person seemed to deserve it it’s Brewer’s. An avowed white supremacist, with an accomplice still on death row, Brewer beat Byrd severely, urinated on him, and then chained him, still conscious, to the back of his truck, dragging him three miles to his death. Part of me wants Brewer hurt in unimaginable ways, slowly brutalized. But more than revenge, I want him alive, so that we can question him, so that he can be studied. I want his brain to be examined before and after his death so that we can understand what circumstances in our culture, or biologically, created someone capable of this kind of evil; so that we can figure out what to do before the next white supremacist comes off the assembly line.

We must ask where this violence comes from, specifically in men: what are we teaching our boys? How can anyone be capable of the cruelty shown recently in Fullerton, California, where six police officers beat and tasered 37-year-old Kelly Thomas to death? Bystanders watched as Thomas screamed for help, calling out, “Dad! Dad!” as police beat him beyond recognition, as Thomas no longer resisted. When you look at the picture of Thomas released to the media before his beating, you will see an “All-American” white man, and you can’t help but think this isn’t the face the police usually vent their rage on. But if you compare it to the photograph taken after his murder, you realize this isn’t the face the police saw that day. Kelly Thomas was schizophrenic and homeless. With a long red beard, and unkempt tangled hair, he wasn’t the boy next door anymore. He was the homeless, mentally ill nuisance on the street corner – someone killable because mental illness pushed him outside the familiar circles. We no longer recognized him as someone who deserved to be saved, and so he didn’t belong to us anymore.

Maybe it is enough, for some, that Troy Davis had to pay for the crime of killing off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail, whether he did it or not, because the person who did it was probably black, and as long as a black person pays, any black person, then that’s enough. Which makes Troy Davis’ execution a lynching. Perhaps Troy Davis was just another black man in America whose life was worth something only as a consumer – not worth enough to protect, not worth enough to save.


Jamey Rodemeyer, a 14-year-old boy from Buffalo, New York, is dead. Bullied by children at his school, Jamey asked for help, but at some point it clearly became too much for him and he took his own life on September 18, 2011.

Jamey acknowledged before his death that he was teased, in part, because most of his friends were girls. ABC News reported that Jamey received messages from his peers that said, “JAMIE IS STUPID, GAY, FAT ANND [sic] UGLY. HE MUST DIE!” Another read, “I wouldn’t care if you died. No one would. So just do it. It would make everyone WAY more happier!”

Jamey’s death particularly stings because he had resources. He had “come out” as a bisexual, and knew where to get some help and support, at least online. He was a fan of Lady Gaga, and her song, “Born This Way” inspired him. He knew about Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” Project, and had even recorded a video to encourage other gay and bisexual people to have hope.  Jamey had some help, but in the end it wasn’t the help he needed.  It simply wasn’t enough.

The loss of Jamey Rodemeyer recalls the suicides last year of 14-year-old Kameron Jacobsen, bullied on Facebook by other students in Orange County, New York because of his perceived sexual orientation, of 18-year-old Rutgers student Tyler Clemente who, after being video-streamed kissing another man by his roommate without his knowledge, and rejected by his mother after coming out, jumped off the George Washington Bridge; and Joseph Jefferson, a 26-year-old black gay-rights activist based in Brooklyn, New York. Jefferson, who had been a graduate from Harvey Milk High School and belonged to several gay organizations, wrote before his death:

“Belonging is one of the basic human needs; when people feel isolated and excluded from a sense of communion with others, they suffer. I have been an advocate for my peers and most importantly youth because most have never had a deep emotional attachment to anyone. They don’t know how to love and be loved in return. The need to be loved can sometimes translate to the need to belong to someone or something. Driven by that need….most will do anything to belong.”


Please continue to Part II.

Max Gordon is a writer and activist. He has been published in the anthologies Inside Separate Worlds: Life Stories of Young Blacks, Jews and Latinos (University of Michigan Press, 1991), Go the Way Your Blood Beats: An Anthology of African-American Lesbian and Gay Fiction (Henry Holt, 1996) and Mixed Messages: An Anthology of Literature to Benefit Hospice and Cancer Causes. His work has also appeared on openDemocracy, Democratic Underground and Truthout, in Z Magazine, Gay Times, Sapience, and other progressive on-line and print magazines in the U.S. and internationally.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. The New Civil Rights Movement depends on readers like you to meet our ongoing expenses and continue producing quality progressive journalism. Three Silicon Valley giants consume 70 percent of all online advertising dollars, so we need your help to continue doing what we do.

NCRM is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. From unflinching coverage of religious extremism, to spotlighting efforts to roll back our rights, NCRM continues to speak truth to power. America needs independent voices like NCRM to be sure no one is forgotten.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure NCRM remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to NCRM, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.


‘I’m Broke’: One Day Before Shutdown and With No Plan McCarthy Says He Has ‘Nothing’ in His ‘Back Pocket’



Just 30 hours before his own Republican conference likely will have succeeded in shutting down the federal government of the United States, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy candidly admitted to reporters he’s run out of ideas.

Earlier Friday in an “embarrassing failure,” 21 House Republicans killed legislation from their own party, a short-term continuing resolution, that would have kept the federal government open.

Later on Friday afternoon, swarmed by reporters, McCarthy was asked if he was going to tell them what his plans are. He sarcastically replied, “No, I’m going to keep it all a secret.”

When pressed, he said he would “keep working, and make sure we solve this problem.”

“What’s in your back pocket, Speaker?” another reporter asked, pressing him for an answer.

“Nothing right now. I’m broke,” he admitted, apparently referring to options and ideas to avoid a shutdown.

READ MORE: ‘Bad News’ for Sidney Powell as First Trump Co-Defendant in Georgia RICO Case Takes Plea Deal: Legal Expert

But another reporter asked Speaker McCarthy the main question: Would he partner with House Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries to put the Senate’s bill before the House.

He refused to answer.

Just before 5 PM CNN’s Manu Raju reported on the ongoing House Republicans’ closed-door meeting with the Speaker, a meeting where the 21 Republicans who will likely be effectively responsible for the shutdown reportedly did not attend.

“McCarthy is telling [Republicans] now there aren’t many options to avoid a shutdown, according to sources in room. He says they can approve GOP’s stop-gap plan that failed, accept Senate plan, put a ‘clean’ stop-gap on floor to dare Democrats to block it — or shut down the government.”

READ MORE: Will McConnell and Senate Republicans Use Feinstein’s Passing to Grind Biden’s Judicial Confirmations to a Halt?

He adds, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) largely responsible for the impending likely shutdown and the impending possible ouster of McCarthy said: “We will not pass a continuing resolution on terms that continue America’s decline.”

At midnight Saturday Republicans will likely have succeeded in furloughing 3.5 million million federal workers – two million of them service members in the U.S. Armed Forces – and countless contractors, while financially harming untold thousands of businesses that rely on income from all those workers to keep running – unless Speaker McCarthy puts a bipartisan continuing resolution approved by at least 75 U.S. Senators on the floor, legislation every House Democrat is likely to vote for.

Should he do so, many believe he will have also signed his own pink slip.

But whether or not the government shuts down, and whether or not McCarthy puts the Senate’s CR on the floor, according to The Washington Post the far right extremists in his party are already moving to oust him “as early as next week.”

The Biden campaign is making certain Americans realize the blame for the impending shutdown sits at McCarthy’s feet.

At 6:23 PM Friday evening, Punchbowl News’ Jake Sherman wrote on social media: “HOUSE REPUBLICANS HAVE NO PLAN TO KEEP GOVERNMENT OPEN.”

Watch the videos above or at this link.

Continue Reading


‘Bad News’ for Sidney Powell as First Trump Co-Defendant in Georgia RICO Case Takes Plea Deal: Legal Expert



The first of 19 co-defendants in Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ RICO and election interference case against Donald Trump has pleaded guilty in what is being described as a “plea deal.”

“Under the terms of an agreement with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s office, Hall pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit election fraud, conspiracy to commit computer theft, conspiracy to commit computer trespass, conspiracy to commit computer invasion of privacy, and conspiracy to defraud the state,” NBC News reports. “Under the terms of the deal, he’s being sentenced to five years probation.”

CNN previously reported “Hall, a bail bondsman and pro-Trump poll-watcher in Atlanta, spent hours inside a restricted area of the Coffee County elections office when voting systems were breached in January 2021. The breach was connected to efforts by pro-Trump conspiracy theorists to find voter fraud. Hall was captured on surveillance video at the office, on the day of the breach. He testified before the grand jury in Fulton County case and acknowledged that he gained access to a voting machine.”

READ MORE: Will McConnell and Senate Republicans Use Feinstein’s Passing to Grind Biden’s Judicial Confirmations to a Halt?

Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, a professor of law and frequent MSNBC contributor, says Hall “was in the thick of things with Sidney Powell on Jan 7 for the Coffee County scheme involving voting machines. If he’s cooperating, it’s a bad sign for her.”

Hall’s plea deal “spells bad news for, among others, Sidney Powell,” says former Dept. of Defense Special Counsel Ryan Goodman, an NYU Law professor of law. Goodman posted a graphic showing the overlap in charges against Hall and Powell, which he called “alleged joint actions.”

See the graphic above or at this link.


Continue Reading


Far-Right Republicans Kill GOP Bill to Keep Government Running in ‘Embarrassing Failure’ for McCarthy: Report



With a shutdown less than 36 hours away, far-right Republicans in the House of Representatives Friday afternoon voted against their party’s own legislation to kept the federal government running. Democrats opposed the content of the bill and voted against it. Just 21 far-right members of the GOP conference were able to effectively force what appears to be an all but inevitable shutdown at midnight on Saturday.

“HARDLINE HOUSE RS take down stopgap funding bill. 21 GOP no votes. 232-198,” reported Punchbowl News’ Jake Sherman just before 2 PM Friday.

NBC News reported that a “band of conservative rebels on Friday revolted and blocked House Republicans’ short-term funding bill to keep the government open, delivering a political blow to Speaker Kevin McCarthy and likely cementing the chances of a painful government shutdown that is less than 48 hours away.”

READ MORE: Will McConnell and Senate Republicans Use Feinstein’s Passing to Grind Biden’s Judicial Confirmations to a Halt?

“Twenty-one rebels, led by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., a conservative bomb-thrower and a top Donald Trump ally, voted Friday afternoon to scuttle the 30-day funding bill, known as a continuing resolution or CR, leaving Republicans without a game plan to avert a shutdown. The vote failed,” NBC added. “The embarrassing failure of the GOP measure once again highlights the dilemma for McCarthy as his hard-liners strongly oppose a short-term bill even if it includes conservative priorities. It leaves Congress on a path to a shutdown, with no apparent offramp to avoiding it — or to quickly reopen the government.”

A bipartisan group of at least 75 U.S. Senators has passed two bills this week that would keep the government running. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy has refused to allow it to come to the floor for a vote.




Continue Reading


Copyright © 2020 AlterNet Media.