“People on the outside don’t realize prison life isn’t just three meals and a bed to sleep in. Prison life is a life of survival. The longer you’re in prison, the more hell you go through. A maximum security prison, where everybody is in there because they killed or raped someone, is a lot like a gang-infested area, where gangs are on every street corner and just wearing the wrong color can get you jumped. You have guards who keep things going, and guards who take it out on the inmates.
“Prison life isn’t easy at all. Sometimes you can carry yourself in a respectful way and you won’t have no trouble at all, but as soon as you let your guard down, there’s trouble right around the corner. The more time you spend in prison, the greater the punishment it is. It’s much worse than the death penalty. People on life without parole . . . it tears them down, it destroys them. Living in prison is hard. Dying is the easy part.”
“When the judge finally sentenced you to death, how did you feel?”
“He said, ‘Mr Davis, you will be executed by 20,000 volts of electricity until you are dead, dead, dead!’ I looked up, and it finally hit me: I’m going to death row. I’d already been convicted in the media before the trial. They all showed photos of me with the words ‘cop killer’ underneath. But when they sat in on the trial, even they started changing their statements. One newswoman even started crying with my mother when they sentenced me to death. How could they do this? How could they convict him? People in the courtroom were as baffled as I was. If they’re so sure of their verdict, why are they so afraid to do another investigation?”
“Because they know in today’s courtroom you’d never be convicted.”
“Ninety percent of the people who got reduced sentences from death row were completely guilty. So many guilty people get their sentences overturned on technicalities, but an innocent person is sent to death so they can protect the system. The Supreme Court doesn’t like granting new trials for death row inmates like me. They do it maybe one out of a hundred times.”
“And they gave Sylvester Coles immunity. They never even suspected him.”
“Sylvester Coles was in a court hearing for something else and a reporter found him. She told him that many people claim he actually committed murder and asked if he had anything to say or if he wanted to clear his name. You know what he said? ‘No comment.’”
“It amazes me that he’s been arrested so many times but never convicted.”
“They’re trying to protect their star witness. Convictions and prison time make him look bad. Years ago his mother apologized to my mother and gave her a hug. It was obvious he done told his family what he did! Even his relative, Ben Gordon came forward and admitted that Coles confessed to shooting the police officer. ”
“The media coverage seems much more balanced now. Martina said that wasn’t always the case.”
“When I was arrested and being taken to the police station, I smiled at one point to help keep calm and remind myself it was God who would liberate me, not man. The media pounced on that moment and plastered that photo of me all over, saying I smirked and was defiant. They built up this image of an evil black man who cheerfully murdered a white police officer and had no remorse whatsoever. The tone of the articles only started changing after Amnesty published its report on me and I started becoming famous. Many of the people supporting me now turned us down in the past when Martina and I kept writing them emails and letters asking for help. I’m grateful for their support, but I’m cautious because they rejected us years ago.”
“In the eyes of the justice system, you’re guilty till proven innocent now that you’ve been convicted.”
“The law has a loophole for inmates with physical evidence: DNA, blood, semen. They could be locked up for twenty-five years and find eleven-year-old DNA, and courts automatically be granting the new trials. But what about people who don’t have nothing to test? Here’s a case where witnesses claimed they could make out a black man in a dark jumpsuit with a fadeaway haircut at night from hundreds of feet away, and there’s nothing I can do? No fingerprints, no physical evidence. They made a mistake but don’t want to admit it, and I’m to be made an example of so they can save face. Twenty years on death row isn’t a joke. Nobody could have seen me from the motel from that distance with palm trees blocking the view. It could be sunny at noon and you still wouldn’t be able to tell. Yet the police can build a case based on that, take juvenile delinquents and illiterates and make them sign papers without their parents present just so they don’t get their asses kicked. Where’s the justice for me?