The familiar automated Global Tel Link voice began the call before abruptly cutting to Troy.
Troy: “I am emotionally and mentally tired, Kavita.” Troy’s deep sigh released a sharp static into the speaker.
Kavita: “What’s wrong?”
Troy: “This is the third time I’ve been in the holding cell, the third time I’ve faced execution. Just three days left. I’m normally composed, but I’m so frustrated with the system. People respect you more when you admit your mistakes. But when you hide behind the mistake, you lose all integrity and people lose respect for you. That’s what the DA who convicted me, Spencer Lawton, is struggling with. He knows what he did was wrong. He knows he convicted the wrong man, but rather than fixing it he’d rather save face for the public.
“There was this guy back here named Willie James Hall. He was scheduled to be executed four or five years ago. There was no doubt that he was guilty. They played a 911 tape on the news where his wife kept screaming, ‘Please help, please help, my husband’s trying to kill me!’ You can hear him breaking down the door, you can hear her screaming, ‘Oh my God, oh my God!’ He broke into the house and stabbed her to death. But the Parole Board commuted his sentence. Another guy, David Crowe, admitted that he robbed and killed his boss for money, and last year the parole board commuted his sentence. These are guys you know are one-hundred percent guilty, and the parole board reduced their sentences. Yet they want to kill me! How do you justify that? How can you commute the sentences of known, without-a-doubt murderers while trying to kill me when there’s so much doubt?”
Kavita: “I can’t tell you how disappointed Gautam was when the Supreme Court declined to hear your case. He lost respect for the justice system. What does it say about our country when a death row inmate inspires my son more than the justices of the Supreme Court?”
Troy: “When the Supreme Court decision came out, it was like somebody sucked the air out of the other inmates. They were like, ‘What?’ A lot of cursing, a lot of ‘That’s messed up, that’s fucked up, how can they do this?’ Many inmates feel hope whenever I get good news, so when the bad news comes, they feel it worse than I do. They’re thinking, ‘If Troy can’t get no relief, how can I?’ When I had to say goodbye to them last Wednesday, they took me in from the yard where they were playing basketball. I said, ‘They’re gonna take me and read me the death warrant. I’m gone.’ Some of them couldn’t stand to say goodbye so they just stood there in the background, they squatted down, and you could see tears dropping from their eyes. Others came to give me a hug. They were shaking, their voices cracking up. They were crying because they take to heart what I’m going through. They know I’m innocent. They know the type of person I am and it inspires them. They don’t understand how I can remain strong. They’re carrying their own burden because of my situation.”
Kavita: “It’s hard to believe the execution is going forward with all the holes in your case.”
Troy: “Why would all these witnesses stick their necks out now, go through all the hassle of preparing for court and subpoenas and lawyers and risk perjury? Dorothy Farrell, one of the witnesses at the trial, wrote a letter to the DA asking for his help because she was in legal trouble. She said she would testify against me and promised him that he ‘Won’t be sorry.’ Basically, she said she’ll do whatever she can to help convict this guy. That letter was hidden from me and my lawyer until after she was done testifying. Even the judge at my trial asked my lawyer back then where these ‘friends’ came from. They didn’t have enough evidence to mount a case against me otherwise, so where did these so-called friends come from? If it weren’t for these so-called friends testifying to the grand jury, they never would’ve indicted me.
“So they didn’t indict me on facts, they indicted me on gossip, lies. And one person on the grand jury lived next door to three state witnesses and she went to school with three state witnesses’ family members. She was best friends with one witness’s sister, and she and her sister dated two brothers of another witness. Don’t you think they influenced the grand jury? She could say stuff like, ‘These kids stayed in my neighborhood. I know their families personally. If they’re all saying this then they must be saying the truth.’ I know she used those connections to convince them to indict me.
“A week or two after the crime, they added nineteen lights to the parking lot. I wanted my lawyers to take the jury there, but they said there was no way the judge would allow that. So I told them to make a videotape. It’s obvious the witnesses were lying because first, I didn’t do it, and second, based on where they were, there was no way they could tell who did.”
Kavita: “How come you never see this kind of information in the news reports?”
Troy: “Because the media don’t care enough to dig deeper and search for the truth. A lot of people don’t know that particular night, Harriet Murray, the homeless man’s girlfriend, couldn’t identify nobody who came up to her. The police showed her a photo of me and said, ‘Everybody else thinks it was him.’ They did the same thing to Dorothy Farell. At trial, they asked Farell how long she had been in an interview with Detective Ramsey, and she said over forty-five minutes on two occasions. He was sitting at the DA’s table, and my lawyer went and stood right next to him and said, ‘Do you see him in the courtroom today?’ She looked around for two minutes and said she didn’t. Then my lawyer gave her a picture of Detective Ramsey from the parking lot that night, and she said, ‘No, I don’t see him here.’ My lawyer then put his hands on Detective Ramsey’s shoulders and said, ‘This is Detective Ramsey. Right here.’ So she couldn’t recognize the man she supposedly saw for forty-five well-lit minutes in interviews, but she somehow saw me at night 260 feet away? When my lawyer brought this up, all she said was, ‘I know who I saw.’ C’mon, it was obvious she was blatantly lying.”
Kavita: “We’re trying to get the Pope to intervene and stop the execution.”
Troy: “The sad thing is all the religious people who support the death penalty, they preach forgiveness in their churches, their mosques, their synagogues. But how can you preach forgiveness, how can you preach redemption and support something so vengeful through the court system? When God laid down the commandments, one of the most powerful ones was ‘Thou shall not kill.’ He didn’t say, ‘Thou shall not kill, except . . .’ He said, ‘Thou shall not kill.’ Period. A lot of Christians make excuses. ‘I have a job to do. I’m not the one who sentenced him to death.’ That doesn’t matter. If you take part in any part of killing someone or an execution, you’re just as guilty as the person who did it. The blood is still on your hands.”
Kavita: “Did you see the letters Gautam and his friends wrote to the Pope?”
Troy: “Yes I did. They’re giving me hope that everything that I stand for, everything that I believe in is gonna come true, and it’s gonna come true through them. I read their letters and I feel like a proud parent.”