“The Newsroom” tackles the Troy Davis execution
Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom” episode last Sunday focused in part on the Troy Davis case and the hours leading up to his execution. The matter at hand was whether lead anchor Will McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels, would speak to the injustice of Davis’ impeding death on the air. His producer (a stand-in for his usual producer) advocated for shedding light on the possible innocence of Davis while McAvoy played devil’s advocate, showing, in typical Sorkin form, that he indeed knew enough about the case to argue both sides better than anyone. Of course, Sorkin knows perfectly well himself that there is no good argument for the death penalty, which is why he chose to highlight the tragedy of Davis’ execution. Below is an article from “The Atlantic” that uses this episode to compare the fictional depictions of real events vs. the actual news coverage at the time:
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The Newsroom: On August 25, Don urges Will to retrace the steps of the legal process that led to Georgia resident Troy Davis’s death sentence in connection to the murder of an off-duty cop in 1989. He declines, saying it would be unfair to “relitigate” a case that’s already been given due process of law. It isn’t clear whether ACN provides more coverage of the situation, but on September 21, ACN reports as breaking news that Troy Davis has been executed after being denied clemency by the Supreme Court.
The news: Some outlets gave considerably compassionate coverage to Davis’s lawyers’ last-minute appeal. For example, NBC’s Brian Williams and Thanh Truong reported on the protests at the Supreme Court just before Davis’s 7 p.m. scheduled execution. According to Truong, “Barring a legal miracle, Troy Davis has just minutes left to live.”
CNN’s coverage just before his execution even included footage of protesters celebrating at 7:04 p.m. that the time of Davis’s scheduled execution had passed without an execution taking place. “Certainly in the period leading up to 7 o’clock, he was strapped to the gurney and the IV quite likely placed into his arm. But they couldn’t begin the procedure until they received word from the Supreme Court,” explained CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
“I don’t know how you feel about this case, I don’t know how you feel about the death penalty. But this is just an awful, excruciating scene.”