Georgia Public Broadcasting is set to air “Beyond Reasonable Doubt: The Troy Davis Project,” a play turned radio drama, at 10 a.m. Oct. 21.
A play in two acts by Atlanta-based playwright Lee Nowell, “Beyond Reasonable Doubt” intertwines fictional characters reacting to the pending execution of Troy Davis with factual material drawn from the Davis trial transcript, media reports and statements from advocacy organizations and individuals that took a position on the execution, according to a news release.
Davis was convicted of the murder of police office Mark MacPhail in Savannah on Aug. 19, 1989. Over 30 witnesses testified in the subsequent trial that they had seen Davis shoot MacPhail, and along with ballistic evidence that linked Davis' 38. caliber pistol to the shooting, he was convicted and sentenced to death in 1991. Davis pleaded innocent, saying that he had fled the scene prior to the shooting.
Davis was executed on Sept. 21, 2011, after sitting on Georgia’s death row for 20 years. During those two decades, Davis’ case became publicly defended by celebrities and human rights groups. After calls for a retrial from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, former President Jimmy Carter, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and former FBI Director William S. Sessions, Davis’ first three execution dates in 2007 and 2008 were stayed.
After a new trial was held in 2009, Davis’ conviction was upheld. The court said defense efforts were “largely smoke and mirrors.”
Nowell was captivated by the case, according to a news release. She was commissioned by Atlanta’s Synchronicity Theatre to write a play based on Davis’ story. The play premiered at Synchronicity in 2016.
It has now been adapted as a GPB radio drama. The podcast for the production will also be available at gpb.org/troydavis and on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, TuneIn, and NPR.
Nowell structured her play in two acts that stand independently from each other and may each lead to a different conclusion about Davis’ innocence or guilt. In fact, when the play first ran at Synchronicity, the order of the acts was changed by performance. Like Nowell, GPB Radio entrusts to listeners the choice of deciding for themselves the issues the play presents.
“I'm excited to bring this story to GPB audiences,” said Nowell. “Producing a stage play on public radio is very powerful. In one broadcast, the play can reach more people than it can in an entire theatrical run. It can encourage more dialogue between audience members, which is exactly what it was designed to do.
"I would ask that audiences consider that the play was written so that its acts can be heard in two different orders. Fifty percent of the theatrical productions should begin with the first act, and fifty percent should begin with the second act. A lot of people came to see the play on two different nights, in order to hear it in both orders. What they discovered is that their opinions changed based on what information they learned first. I'm curious to see if GPB audiences have the same experience.”
The radio drama is being produced and hosted by GPB’s Bill Nigut, and includes the original cast reprising their roles.