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Message from NAACP to voters: Remember Troy Davis

Troy Davis execution
Augusta's NAACP president says he hopes the impact of the Troy Davis decision will amp up discussion on the death penalty. (WRDW-TV / Sept. 22, 2011)

News 12 First at Five / Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Troy Davis died at 11:08 p.m. Wednesday, but the debate over the death penalty is still very much alive.

Davis was convicted of killing Mark MacPhail, an off-duty Savannah police officer in 1989. The conviction was based mostly on eyewitness testimony and bullet casings that tied Davis to another shooting earlier that night.

Since then, some witnesses have come forward to recant their testimony, claiming someone else killed MacPhail.

Nearly four hours after Davis was supposed to be executed, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a stay to the execution, and Davis was laid to rest.

The case has caused the debate over the death penalty to heat up, and the Augusta's NAACP president wants to take it to the voting booth.

"I would just love to see some efforts in that General Assembly to outlaw the death penalty," said NAACP President Charles Smith.

Some say that is not so easy.

"Most folks, unless you're politically active in the anti-death penalty movement, will forget about it, or they will already have the same opinion they had beforehand," said ASU political science professor Peter Flanagan.

Smith said he wants to make sure every single person who shares the same ideas as those who protested Davis's death are heard beyond the protests.

"[We are going to] do everything we can from civic engagement to continue election protection to make sure we get people to the polls to make changes," Smith said. "If you speak in terms of 2012, it's going to be quite interesting."

Flanagan says the Troy Davis case and the publicity it's gotten won't be enough to make that much of a difference in 2012.

"I don't think it will be forgotten, but I don't think it's going to have an effect," he said. "It's all of the independents and those on the edge, and many of them may look to President Obama because they said they were protesting outside the White House, and what did he do? Did he put pressure on anybody? No," Flanagan explained. "Other folks running for office, I don't think is going to make much of a difference at all."

Smith says he'd like to see a difference, but the responsibility ultimately falls on those we elect.

"You make every false promise in the world about what you're going to do when you're elected locally, at the state level, Congress, Senate, even President of the United States. When you get in the driver's seat, you crank the car, and you steer the vehicle the way you want to."