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“Why Are You Looking for My Son?” The Day Troy Davis Was Wrongfully Accused of Killing a Police Officer

On the anniversary of Troy Davis' execution, the new book "I Am Troy Davis" recounts the years leading up to his execution.

The following is an adapted excerpt from  I Am Troy Davis. Copyright © 2013 by Jen Marlowe and Martina Davis-Correia with Troy Davis. Reprinted with permission of Haymarket Books, Chicago, IL.

Editor's note: On September 21, 2011, Troy Anthony Davis, who maintained his innocence, was executed for the murder of police officer Mark MacPhail. Human rights groups, activists from around the world, and Davis' family and friends fought until the end to save his life. The following excerpt tells the story of the day police singled Davis out as the main suspect in the shooting death of officer Mark MacPhail.

August 19, 1989:

It was after 2 a.m. when Troy finally got home. He shook his head as he climbed into bed. He didn’t know the source of the gunshots he had heard as he was leaving the Greyhound bus station/Burger King parking lot, but whatever had gone down, it was messed up. Mama and Daddy had warned him about hanging out with the wrong crowd and spending time at places like the pool hall across from the bus station. Maybe it was time to start listening to them.

It seemed to Troy that his head had barely hit the pillow when Mama was knocking on the door and calling him to breakfast. He checked the clock. Just before ten. “Five more minutes, Mama,” he groaned, pulling the pillow over his face. Mama would have none of it. “You all get up!” she hollered, knocking more vehemently on his door and the girls’ door. After breakfast, Virginia asked Troy to do the dishes.

“Ma, that’s a girl’s job!” Troy protested. Mama raised her eyebrows. “That’s what your daddy fed to y’all, that men don’t wash dishes. Boys can wash dishes!” Troy pushed his plate away and stood up. “I’ll take the trash out, Mama.” He hoisted the garbage bag onto his shoulder and headed to the front door. “Clean the whole yard while you’re at it, since you won’t do the dishes!” Virginia called after him good-naturedly.

Spending the day cleaning the yard and bathing the puppies had been Troy’s intent anyway, since his morning ride to Atlanta with his cousin Valerie had fallen through. Martina agreed to drive him, but she was hosting a dinner party and could only leave in the late evening. Troy was eager to get to Atlanta to look for some better-paying work than what he had in Savannah, but there was no real rush. He couldn’t ask his cousin Skippy about a job at his construction company until Monday anyway.

At 9 p.m., Virginia, nineteen-year-old Kimberly, and eight-year-old Ebony got in the car and drove Troy to Martina’s apartment just as her guests were leaving. Shortly thereafter, Troy, Martina, and Martina’s husband Louie were on the road to Atlanta and Virginia, Ebony, and Kim were on their way back home to Cloverdale. Louie took a wrong turn on the highway and by the time they arrived in Atlanta, it was too late for Troy to call his cousin Abdus, with whom he would be staying.

“We’ll wait with you until morning,” Martina decided, and Louie found a spot to park so they could try to stretch out in the car to get some sleep. As pink light began to streak the Atlanta sky, Troy tried to extricate his backpack from underneath his sister’s head without waking her.

“You alright?” Martina murmured heavily.

“Yeah, I’m good.”

“You got money? You have Abdus’s phone number?”


Troy climbed out of the car with his backpack, yawning and stretching after the cramped night. Martina and Louie waved goodbye and began the four-hour return journey to Savannah.

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