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The Fight To Save Troy Davis

GUY RAZ, Host:

This past Wednesday, Troy Davis was executed in Georgia. He'd been convicted of killing an off-duty police officer 22 years ago in the city of Savannah. Now the day before and after Troy Davis died, two other convicted murderers were put to death, one in Texas, the other in Alabama.

But the case of Troy Davis is the only one that inspired a global campaign for clemency. Conservatives like former Congressman Bob Barr and former FBI chief William Sessions to members of the European Parliament all argued there were too many doubts about his guilt.

We asked Laura Moye of Amnesty International how the case of Troy Davis became a cause celebre.

LAURA MOYE: You know, as this case became very big, thousands of people would start to write him letters, and he tried his very best to write everybody back.

RAZ: Troy Davis' sister, Martina, was an Amnesty International volunteer. Does that explain how this case became such an enormous international cause celebre? I mean, there are, of course, plenty of people on death row who claim they are innocent and many people who believe them. But this case seemed to capture the imagination of people all around the world.

MOYE: Well, it's funny you should say that because when our media director tried to pitch our report about the Troy Davis case back in 2007 before his first execution date, that's precisely what reporters told us. There are many people on death row, many of them say they're innocent, how is this different? But there were some things that were a little bit unique. The fact that the witness recantations and the contradictions in the testimony...

RAZ: Seven out of nine...

MOYE: Seven out of nine...

RAZ: ...eyewitnesses recanted or partially recanted.

MOYE: ...recanted - correct. And...

RAZ: There's no physical evidence connecting him.

MOYE: No physical evidence that directly links him to the crime. This was a little unusual. But it took a lot of work. This didn't happen overnight. We started with just 40 people at our first rally. And because we had this time between sort of execution dates and stays of execution to get more people interested to generate more media attention, we also found that outreach to African-American communities, particularly through Black Talk Radio, was powerful.

You know, the African-American experience with the criminal justice system is very harsh. One in three African-American men find themselves in the criminal justice system at some point in their lives. Many of them were able to relate to this case in a way that the average white American did not.

So step by step, we were able to build this. And I think that once the campaign sort of took off, it sort of went viral. Change.org and Color of Change and Move On started to circulate Troy Davis petitions in the last month or so, and they were able to reach hundreds of thousands of people that added their voice to ours.

RAZ: Given the fact that of course he was executed by the state, despite all of the international attention and the efforts to get him clemency, was the campaign a success to some extent?

MOYE: When the state of Georgia executed Troy Davis, they made an argument for abolition of the death penalty far better than Amnesty International ever could.

RAZ: That's Laura Moye. She's the death penalty abolition campaign director for Amnesty International here in Washington, D.C. talking about the Troy Davis case. Laura, thank you.

MOYE: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.