I Am Troy Davis: Discussion and Study Guide

Discussion Questions

  1. Why did you read this book? Were there any aspects of the Troy Davis story that were different from what you expected? If so, what were they?
  2. At one hearing for Davis, Georgia Congressman John Lewis states, “I do not know Troy Anthony Davis. I do not know if he is guilty of the charges of which he has been convicted. But I do know that nobody should be put to death based on the evidence we now have” (p. 54). What were the weaknesses in the evidence that gave Lewis pause?
  3. Do you think there were failings in the system that allowed Davis to be executed? If so, what were they?
  4. Why do you think the witnesses who originally pinpointed Davis as the shooter later recanted their stories? Which version of their accounts do you believe?
  5. Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide. Why do you think that is the case? Why is it still so persuasive to juries?
  6. Early in the book Martina Davis-Correia remembers her father warning her and her siblings as children that “there will be times when the color of your skin will get in the way” (p. 66). In what ways did race “get in the way” for members of the Davis family or other characters in the book? What did they do to overcome this?
  7. Engraved on the front of the U.S. Supreme Court Building is the phrase “Equal Justice Under Law.” Do you believe that everyone in the country receives equal justice? What are some of the factors that influence the kind of justice someone receives?
  8. Why do you think Troy Davis’ case became so high profile?
  9. Why do you think the authors chose to highlight Martina Davis-Correia’s cancer in addition to Troy Davis’ case?
  10. Shortly before Davis’ execution, a correction’s officer called his sister to say “I just want you to know that Troy is doing okay” (p. 140), but would not reveal his identity. Why do you think the guard made that call? What effect do you think the death penalty has on prison workers who carry out executions?
  11. Were there other types of people whose reaction to the case surprised you?
  12. Prosecutor David Locke states, “You need finality in cases at some point” (p. 98). On the same page we see the translation of an inscription on a wall of the Georgia Supreme Court building: “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.” How does the desire for finality affect the pursuit of justice? Should finality ever take priority over justice? Why or why not?
  13. Some people say that we need the death penalty to provide closure to the families of murder victims, while others say there’s no such thing as closure. What does this case make you think about the impact of the death penalty on murder victims’ families?
  14. Does Davis’ guilt or innocence affect the suffering of the Davis family? Does their experience indicate a need for the system to help families of the executed? If so, how?
  15. Did the book impact the way you think about the death penalty? If so, how?
  16. Did the book impact the way you think about the criminal justice system overall? If so, how?
  17. Martina Davis-Correia reflected that her “family had a lot more in common with the MacPhail family than what kept them sitting on different sides of the courtroom aisle” (p. 171). Do you think this is true? If so, how? What do you imagine the MacPhail’s experience with the criminal justice system was like?
  18. Two-thirds of the world’s countries have ended the death penalty in law or practice. Many governments and organizations like Amnesty International believe that the death penalty violates human rights. What do you think? Do you believe the Troy Davis execution was a violation of human rights?