How many of us would have the presence of mind and strength of character to say something coherent, let alone inspiring, just minutes before being put to death by the state?
Troy Davis managed it. According to witnesses who were present,
He looked directly at the members of the family of Mark MacPhail, the officer he was convicted of killing, and told them they had the wrong man. “I did not personally kill your son, father, brother,” he said. “All I can ask is that you look deeper into this case so you really can finally see the truth.” He then told his supporters and family to “keep the faith” and said to prison personnel [who were about to kill him], “May God have mercy on your souls; may God bless your souls.”
This quiet and stunning eloquence was matched by Davis’s words to the NAACP’s Robert Rooks one day before his death. According to Rooks,
For someone that was facing death the very next day, he was just full of life and wanted to spend time talking to the younger staff, the interns, giving them direction and hope and asking them to hold onto God. And he challenged them. He challenged them by saying, “You have a choice. You can either fold up your bags after tomorrow and go home, or you can stand and continue this fight.” He said it doesn’t—it didn’t begin with Troy Davis, and this won’t end if he is executed today. He just asked us all just to continue to fight to end the death penalty, if in fact he’s executed.