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jueves, julio 05, 2007

Spare Troy Davis

crossposted at dailyKos

Sometimes a death penalty case comes along that is much more upsetting than the usual one. Of course, this depends on what upsets you. Personally, I think all executions are barbaric and they should be banned. And I find each one extremely upsetting. But even those who aren't absolutists like me find particular executions upsetting. Some executions, for example, of retarded people, of people under 18 at the time of their crime, upset even a majority of the Supreme Court so much that they prohibited such killings. But a majority of the Supreme Court isn't often upset by judicial killing and it often enables it. State killing continues, approved by the Supreme Court and the governments in more than 30 states.

Sometimes, a death penalty case comes along in which it looks for all the world like an innocent person is about to be executed. Sometimes the Supreme Court washes its hands of that case, turns its back, and diddles while somebody is fastened to the gurney.

Which brings me to Troy Anthony Davis and the efforts of Georgia to execute him on July 17, 2007, even though there are substantial doubts about his guilt of the crime.

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Troy Anthony Davis

Amnesty International provides the following brief synopsis (which I have edited; my comments are inserted in brackets)
On 28 August 1991 Troy Davis [who is an African American] was convicted of the
murder of 27-year-old Officer Mark Allen McPhail,
white, who was shot and killed in the parking lot of a
Burger King in Savannah, Georgia,
in the early hours of 19 August 1989. Troy Davis was
also convicted of assaulting Larry Young, a homeless
man, who was accosted and struck across the face with
a pistol immediately before Officer McPhail was shot.
At the trial, Troy Davis admitted that he had been at
the scene of the shooting, but claimed that he had
neither assaulted Larry Young nor shot Officer

There was no physical evidence against Troy Davis and
the weapon used in the crime was never found. The case
against him consisted entirely of witness testimony.
In affidavits signed over the years since the trial,
all but three of the state's non-police witnesses have
recanted their testimony. One of the three
non-recanting witnesses is a man who has not been
located for interview by Davis' appeal lawyers.
Another, while not recanting, has contradicted her
trial testimony. The third non-police witness who has
not recanted his testimony is Sylvester Coles, who was
the principle alternative suspect, according to the
defense at the trial, and against whom there is new
witness testimony implicating him as the gunman.

All of the others have recanted their testimony against Troy
Davis. In 1989, Kevin McQueen was detained in the same
jail as Davis. McQueen told the police that during
this time Troy Davis had confessed to shooting Officer
McPhail. [This is classic jailhouse snitch testimony
and it is notoriously unreliable.] In a 1996 affidavit,
McQueen retracted this
statement, saying that he had given it because he
wanted to "get even" with Davis following a
confrontation he said the two of them had had. Monty
Holmes testified against Troy Davis in a pre-trial
hearing, but did not testify at the trial because,
according to a 2001 affidavit, he did not want to
repeat his false testimony. Jeffrey Sapp testified
that Troy Davis had told him that he had shot the
officer. Recanting his testimony in a 2003 affidavit,
he stated that under "a lot of pressure" from police,
he had testified against Troy Davis. [These recantations
occurred years after the jury trial that led to Davis's
death penalty.]

At the trial, eyewitness Dorothy Ferrell identified
Troy Davis as the person who had shot Officer McPhail.
In a 2000 affidavit, she stated that she had not seen
who the gunman was, but testified against Davis out of
fear that if she did not, because she was on parole at
the time, she would be sent back to jail. In a 2002
affidavit, Darrell Collins, 16 years old at the time
of the crime, said that the day after the shooting, 15
or 20 police officers came to his house, and
"a lot of
them had their guns drawn". They took him in for
questioning, and "after a couple of hours of the
detectives yelling at me and threatening me, I finally
broke down and told them what they wanted to hear.
They would tell me things that they said had happened
and I would repeat whatever they said - I testified
against Troy at his trial - because I was still scared
that the police would throw me in jail for being an
accessory to murder if I told the truth about what

Larry Young, the homeless man who was accosted on the
night of the murder, implicated Troy Davis as the man
who had assaulted him. His affidavit, signed in 2002,
offers further evidence of a coercive police
investigation into the murder of their fellow officer:
"After I was assaulted that night - some police
officers grabbed me and threw me down on the hood of
the police car and handcuffed me. They treated me like
a criminal; like I was the one who killed the officer
- They made it clear that we weren't leaving until I
told them what they wanted to hear. They suggested
answers and I would give them what they wanted. They
put typed papers in my face and told me to sign them.
I did sign them without reading them."
In his 2002
affidavit he said that he "couldn't honestly remember
what anyone looked like or what different people were

Antoine Williams, a Burger King employee, had just
driven into the restaurant's parking lot at the time the
shooting occurred. At the trial, he identified Troy
Davis as the person who had shot Officer McPhail. In
2002 he stated that this was false, and that he had
signed a statement for the police which he could not
and did not read:
"Even today, I know that I could not
honestly identify with any certainty who shot the
officer that night. I couldn't then either. After the
officers talked to me, they gave me a statement and
told me to sign it. I signed it. I did not read it
because I cannot read. At Troy Davis's trial, I
identified him as the person who shot the officer.
Even when I said that, I was totally unsure whether he
was the person who shot the officer. I felt pressured
to point at him because he was the one who was sitting
in the courtroom. I have no idea what the person who
shot the officer looks like."

Due to the procedural obstacles facing a death row
inmate seeking a hearing on post-conviction evidence,
Troy Davis has had no such hearing on the current
state of the witness testimony.
At oral arguments in
front of a three-judge panel of the federal 11th
Circuit Court of Appeals in September 2005, one of the
judges expressed concern that Troy Davis had not been
granted a federal hearing to present the
post-conviction evidence. She asked, "If these people
say, "I was coerced by the police - how could [the
lower federal judge] reject that without a hearing?"
She reportedly suggested that without the testimony of
the various trial witnesses who had now recanted, the
state appeared to have no case. However, in September
2006, the 11th Circuit Court upheld the federal
judge's ruling, and on 25 June 2007 the US Supreme
court refused to intervene
. For a full report on this
case, see USA: "Where is the justice for me?"

I'm not at all convinced that Troy Anthony Davis committed the murder for which Georgia plans to execute him on July 17, 2007. And I'm not alone in this. See this NY Daily News column, this from the Hill, and statements from others who have examined the case. Bishop Desmond Tutu and Sr. Helen Prejean agree. Given the state of the record, I doubt rational humans could argue that they are at all convinced-- forget about being convinced beyond a reasonable doubt-- that Troy Anthony Davis is guilty. No matter, according to the Hill
Georgia officials, however, consistently have said courts have looked at Davis’s arguments, and the state’s attorney general’s office has indicated it is comfortable with the decision to carry out the death sentence.

What is to be done? Time is extremely short. Amnesty suggests the following:
Please send appeals to arrive as
quickly as possible, in your own words:

- explaining that you are not seeking to condone the
murder of Officer Mark Allen McPhail, or to downplay
the seriousness of the crime or the suffering caused;

- noting that many of the witnesses who testimony was
used against Troy Davis at his trial have since
recanted their trial testimony, and that there is new
evidence against an alternative suspect in the case;

- noting the large number of wrongful convictions in
capital cases in the USA since 1976, and noting that
unreliability of witness testimony has been a
contributing factor in many of these cases;

- noting that the power of clemency in capital cases
exists as a failsafe against irreversible error that
the courts have been unable or unwilling to remedy;

- calling on the Board to commute the death sentence
of Troy Davis.


State Board of Pardons and Paroles
2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, SE, Suite 458
Balcony Level, East Tower
Atlanta, Georgia 30334-4909
Fax: 1 404 651 8502
Salutation: Dear Board members


It is extremely important that each of us make it clear that this execution is not being carried out in our names. Please take a moment to email or write the George Board of Pardons and Paroles.

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Anonymous Anónimo said...

It makes me so sad and angry that innocent people lives are destroyed through American "justice" system. This is a shame! The death penalty should be abolished! Troy, you are in my prayers! Stay strong!

2:21 p. m.  
Anonymous Anónimo said...

As the son of a Savannah Police Officer who remembers this horrific crime, my heart goes out to the McPhail family and I look forward to justice finally being served.

11:41 p. m.  
Blogger JR said...

there is a petition on line to help Troy.
Sign it!
You can also see a blog in French dedicated to him and a website in English with all the necessary information

11:21 a. m.  

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