Troy Davis is set to be executed by the state of Georgia on September 21st for a crime he may not have committed. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his final appeal earlier this year. But the story remains the same – Troy Davis could very well be innocent.
Davis was convicted on the basis of witness testimony – seven of the nine original witnesses have since recanted or changed their testimony. Troy has survived three previous execution dates, because people like you kept the justice system in check! Let Georgia authorities know you oppose the death penalty for Troy Davis!
Former FBI Director William S. Sessions, also a former federal judge and federal prosecutor, says again today in the AJC, that questions about his guilt continue to plague his conviction:
In 2007, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles issued a stay of execution for Davis and took the admirable position that it would “not allow an execution to proceed in this State unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused.”
Because this case continues to be permeated by doubt, the Board of Pardons and Paroles’ stance continues to be the right one. In reality, there will always be cases, including capital cases, in which doubts about guilt cannot be erased to an acceptable level of certainty. The Davis case is one of these, and it is for cases like this that executive clemency exists.
I am a longtime supporter of the death penalty. I make no judgment as to whether Davis is guilty or innocent. And surely the citizens of Savannah and the state of Georgia want justice served on behalf of Officer MacPhail.
But imposing an irreversible sentence of death on the skimpiest of evidence will not serve the interest of justice. By granting clemency, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles will adhere to the most sacred principles of American jurisprudence, and will keep a man from being executed when we cannot be assured of his guilt.
John Lewis, Hank Johnson, David Scott, Sanford Bishop are also seeking clemency for Troy Davis.
Dead men literally tell no tales, and the guilt or possible innocence of Davis will go with him to his grave. The possibility of innocence is hardly a stretch. More than a dozen death row inmates have been released in the past two decades as a result of DNA evidence. A legion of other death row inmates have been released because of prosecutorial misconduct that resulted in retrials and acquittals, or pardons after mountainous evidence was presented that cast major doubt on their guilt.
The Davis case is a near textbook example of a death penalty case that reaches nowhere near the oft stated but much abused constitutional high bar of conviction, namely: beyond a reasonable doubt.
Legal experts familiar with the case said the recantations and allegations of police coercion badly undermined the state’s case against Davis.
“The record is shredded,” said Russell Covey, a law professor at Georgia State University. “What was presented to that jury is no longer valid evidence.”
But the judge overseeing the hearing, William T. Moore Jr., decided that in order to overturn the original jury verdict, Davis needed not only to cast doubt on the evidence against him, but to provide “clear and compelling” proof of his innocence. In an August 2010 ruling dismissing Davis’ appeal, he declared that while the state’s case “may not be ironclad,” Davis failed to make a showing of “actual innocence” and thus should not be granted a new trial. The evidentiary hearing was the first such legal proceeding in more than 50 years.
Amy Goodman, in The Guardian yesterday, calls it a judicial lynching:
More than a century ago, the legendary muckraking journalist Ida B Wells risked her life when she began reporting on the epidemic of lynchings in the Deep South. She published Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All its Phases in 1892 and followed up with The Red Record in 1895, detailing hundreds of lynchings. She wrote:
“In Brooks County, Georgia, 23 December, while this Christian country was preparing for Christmas celebration, seven Negroes were lynched in 24 hours because they refused, or were unable to tell the whereabouts of a colored man named Pike, who killed a white man … Georgia heads the list of lynching states.”
The planned execution of Davis will not be at the hands of an unruly mob, but in the sterile, fluorescently lit confines of Georgia diagnostic and classification prison in Butts County, near the town of Jackson.