The Honorable Nathan Deal
Governor of the State of Georgia
203 State Capitol
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles
2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, SE
Suite 458, Balcony Level, East Tower
Atlanta, Georgia 30334-4909
Re: Clemency for Troy Anthony Davis
Dear Governor Deal and Members of the Board:
Human Rights Watch urges you to commute the sentence of Troy Anthony Davis, who is scheduled to be executed on September 21, 2011.
The cornerstones of human rights are the respect for the inherent dignity of all human beings and the right to equal treatment. Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment because the inherent dignity of the person cannot be squared with the death penalty, a form of punishment unique in its cruelty and finality, and a punishment inevitably and universally plagued with arbitrariness, prejudice, and error. It is widely rejected by countries viewed by the United States as its peers.
Given the irrevocability of death, every precaution must be taken to ensure that mistakes are not made. Since 1973, 138 persons—including five in Georgia—have been released from US death rows after they were shown to be innocent of the crimes for which they had been sentenced to die. Some had come within days of execution. A rights-respecting government simply should not tolerate the risk that a person will be executed for a crime he or she did not commit.
Evidence also continues to mount that application of the death penalty is rife with racial disparities. African-American defendants are more likely to receive a death sentence than white defendants. Those who kill white people are far more likely to be sentenced to death than those who kill African-Americans or other people of color. A 2007 study of eight death penalty states by the American Bar Association concluded that “every state studied appears to have significant racial disparities in its capital system,” but that “little, if anything, has been done to rectify the problem.”
For these reasons, we urge you to commute the death sentence of Troy Anthony Davis.
Director, US Program
Human Rights Watch