These assignment ideas have been updated to reflect the tragic execution of Troy Davis.

1. Write a response to the Savannah Morning News editorial which suggests that the execution of Troy Davis was an example of justice prevailing. Or write your own op-ed piece for a local or national media outlet about how you feel about Troy Davis’s execution.

2. Listen to the audio recording of Troy’s words from death row and read the interview with him. Write a letter to Troy Davis. Knowing that he was executed on Wednesday, September 21, what would you want to say to him or to his family? Read letters aloud in class.

3. Conduct a “free-write” in class. “Troy Davis is . . .” or “The death penalty is . . .”  or “I am Troy Davis . . .” Share free-write responses in class.

4. Watch Dave Zirin’s solidarity video and create your own for extra credit.

5. Listen to Kevin Coval’s poem and write your own for extra credit.

6. A group of current and former correctional officials wrote a letter asking that Troy Davis be offered clemency. Read the letter. Analyze the arguments that the correctional officials (including the former warden of the prison that executed Troy Davis) make in asking for clemency on behalf of Troy Davis.

* Were their arguments convincing to you? Why or Why not?
* What other arguments might you have made to support Troy Davis’ petition for clemency?
*Are you surprised that people who work in correctional facilities would write such a letter? Why or why not?
* What impact do you think killing someone has on the correctional staff who have to do this?

7. Several artists have written songs inspired by Troy Davis and against the death penalty. Write your own song inspired by Troy Davis or against the death penalty. One example of this is JasiriX’s I Am Troy Davis (T.R.O.Y.) .

8. Visit the Death Penalty Information Center and find out the answer to the following questions:

a. Other than the United States, what other countries still practice capital punishment? What do you think about the company that the United States keeps?

b. What percentage of death row inmates in the U.S. are African American or Latino? What does race or class have to do with who gets the death penalty?

c. How many innocent people have been released from death row since the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S. in 1976? What is your reaction to learning about innocent people being sentenced to death? Why do you think this is allowed to happen?

9. Jason Brennan makes a very succinct argument against the death penalty:

Even if we grant for the sake of argument that some people deserve to die, it does not follow that the state may be authorized to kill them. For a state to have the right to kill criminals, it must make decisions about guilt and hear appeals in a fair, competent, and reliable manner. It must have rules that reliably let the innocent–or those whose guilt is reasonably in doubt–go free. The American criminal justice system fails to meet these standards. Perhaps a government of smart angels should be granted the right to kill. We could debate that. But no state in America deserves any such right.

Break your class up into two teams. One group will explain why they agree with Brennan’s argument; the other group will explain why they disagree with the argument.


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