Fraternity facilitates conversation on Troy Davis, death penalty at Black Culture Center

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 | 10:48 p.m. CDT; updated 9:31 a.m. CDT, Thursday, September 29, 2011

COLUMBIA — Jamal Andress stood before an audience gathered at the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center and asked a simple question.

“As humans, are we past the death penalty?”

Andress helped facilitate “Guilty Until Proven Innocent,” a discussion Wednesday night regarding the September execution of Troy Davis. The event was sponsored by the MU chapter of the historically black fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha.

Davis, an African-American man from Georgia, was found guilty in the 1989 slaying of an off-duty police officer. He was sentenced to death in 1991, and after four delays and 20 years, he was executed by lethal injection on Sept. 21.

Andress, historian of Alpha Phi Alpha, began addressing the crowd of mostly students by presenting the facts of the Davis case. MU law professors S. David Mitchell and Paul Litton took questions from the audience and discussed Davis' possible motivation and the rationale behind the death penalty.

The floor was then opened up for discussion, and many audience members expressed a sadness about the disproportionate number of executions for crimes involving white victims over crimes involving black or other minority victims.

Some discussed their personal experiences related to victims of crime.

MU student Jazsmin Thomas said her uncle was murdered and his killer was sentenced to life in jail, a decision she agreed with.

“I’m opposed to the death penalty,” she said. “It doesn’t deter anyone, and it’s not right to take another’s life.”

“So how can we take an issue like this and push toward the better good?” Andress responded as he guided the conversation.

Maikieta Brantley, another MU student, said she strongly believes in educating others and raising awareness about wrongful convictions and how the legal process works.

“We’re the future,” she said. “One of us could be the next juror in a case like this.”

Several audience members said social media sparked their interest in the Davis case. Brantley said she had not been familiar with the case until she saw it mentioned on Twitter.

Korian Harrington, president of Alpha Phi Alpha, agreed with Brantley.

“I saw his (Troy Davis') name all over social networking sites, and it really bothered me,” Harrington said. “We needed a discussion like this, and the Troy Davis case was really a catalyst.”

Brantley said overall she was pleased with how the discussion went.

“This was an articulate and fair discussion,” she said. “I think it was beneficial and informative for everyone involved.”

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Nathan Stephens September 29, 2011 | 7:04 a.m.

Just a "credit correction," that event was not hosted by the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center (GOBCC). That event was created, hosted and facilitated by the men of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated. It was one of their 'Black Men's Think Tank' events. It was simply held at the GOBCC. These young men worked hard to put on this event and I wanted to make sure that they received the credit for the thought and hard work put into this event.

(Report Comment)
Jim Miller September 29, 2011 | 9:28 a.m.

Great article and it's encouraging to see the young people discuss these important topics.

Nathan, I believe you're misinformed. The event was hosted by GOBCC seeing as that is where the event was held therefore GOBCC was the host. Allyson gave credit to Alpha Phi Alpha as she stated that they sponsored the event in the third paragraph.

(Report Comment)
Sandra Hayes September 29, 2011 | 12:54 p.m.

Troy Davis pistol whipped a homeless man who wouldnt give him a beer, then shot the off duty police officer who was trying to stop him. The gun Troy Davis used was a weapon he had been convicted of using in a previous crime, there were many witnesses to his crime and he was rightfully convicted of murder. The death penalty should be a deterrent to people but it is not so he should have been in prison for life and maybe pistol whipped on occasion. I fail to read much about protests for the man put to death by the state of Texas on the same night, if you are against the death penalty then all death row inmates deserve your attention dont they ???????

(Report Comment)
John Schultz September 29, 2011 | 1:39 p.m.

7 of those 9 eyewitnesses recanted their testimony. Eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable and the police didn't help by dragging them all to a cockamamie reenactment a few days later.

(Report Comment)

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