Tuesday, October 14, 2008

United States Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Appeal for Troy Davis

Supreme Court Refusal to Hear Troy Davis Case "Truly Shocking"

Amnesty International
October 14, 2008

"The Supreme Court has effectively ended a longstanding battle to have new evidence in Davis' favor heard in a court of law."

Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) decried today's U.S. Supreme Court decision to deny a new hearing for Georgia death-row inmate Troy Anthony Davis. The Court had granted Davis a stay of execution just hours before he was scheduled to be put to death while it decided whether to hear the case. In denying Davis' petition for a writ of certiorari, the Court has effectively ended a longstanding battle to have new evidence in Davis' favor heard in a court of law.

"The Supreme Court's decision is truly shocking, given that significant evidence of Davis' innocence will never have a chance to be examined," said Larry Cox, executive director for AIUSA. "Faulty eyewitness identification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions, and the hallmark of Davis' case. This was an opportunity for the Court to clarify the constitutionality of putting the innocent to death –- and in Davis' case, his innocence could only be determined with a new hearing or trial."

"It is disgraceful that the highest court in the land could sink so low when doubts surrounding Davis' guilt are so high," Cox added.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied Davis’ petition for writ of certiorari that was submitted on constitutional grounds of due process and cruel and unusual punishment violations if an individual is put to death despite significant claims to innocence. Davis’ attorneys filed the petition after the Georgia Supreme Court’s narrow 4-3 ruling to deny Davis an evidentiary hearing last March; the ruling was based on technicalities rather than basic questions of guilt and innocence.

Davis was convicted in 1991 of killing Savannah police officer Mark Allen MacPhail. Authorities failed to produce a murder weapon or any physical evidence tying Davis to the crime. In addition, seven of the nine original state witnesses have since recanted or changed their initial testimonies in sworn affidavits. One of the remaining witnesses is alleged to be the actual perpetrator.

Since the launch of its February 2007 report , "Where Is the Justice for Me? The Case of Troy Davis, Facing Execution in Georgia," Amnesty International has campaigned intensively for a new evidentiary hearing or trial and clemency for Davis, collecting well over 200,000 clemency petition signatures and letters from across the United States and around the world. To date, internationally known figures such as Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter have all joined the call for clemency, as well as lawmakers from within and outside of Georgia.

For more information about the Troy Davis case, please visit: www.amnestyusa.org/troydavis .

High court turns down Ga. death row inmate



ATLANTA (AP) The Supreme Court has cleared the way for a Georgia man to be put to death for killing a police officer two weeks after it halted his execution to consider his appeal.

Troy Davis asked the high court to intervene in his case and order a new trial because seven of the nine witnesses against him have recanted their testimony. Former President Jimmy Carter and South Africa Archbishop Desmond Tutu are among prominent supporters who have called for a new trial.

The justices granted Davis a reprieve on Sept. 23, less than two hours before his scheduled execution. But they declined Tuesday to give his appeal a full-blown hearing. It was not immediately clear when his execution will be scheduled.

Davis' supporters, who erupted in joy when his execution was halted last month, said they were heartbroken when they received word of the decision.

"Oh, God. I think it's disgusting, terrible. I'm extremely disappointed," said Martina Correia, Davis' sister. "Well, we still have to fight. We can't stop."

Davis was convicted of the murder of 27-year-old officer Mark MacPhail, who was working off-duty as a security guard at a bus station. MacPhail's family said they were relieved.

"I was hoping that would be the decision," said MacPhail's mother, Anneliese MacPhail. "I'm hoping that soon we will have some peace, that this will all be over."

A divided Georgia Supreme Court has twice rejected Davis' request for a new trial, and had rejected his appeal to delay the execution on Monday afternoon. The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles also turned down his bid for clemency.

MacPhail had rushed to help a homeless man who had been pistol-whipped at a nearby parking lot, and was shot twice when he approached Davis and two other men.

Witnesses identified Davis as the shooter, and at the 1991 trial, prosecutors said he wore a "smirk on his face" as he fired the gun.

But Davis' lawyers say new evidence proves their client was a victim of mistaken identity. Besides those who have recanted their testimony, three others who did not testify have said Sylvester "Red" Coles who testified against Davis at his trial confessed to the killing.

Coles refused to talk about the case when contacted by The Associated Press during a 2007 court appearance and has no listed phone number.

Prosecutors have said the case is closed. They also say some of the witness affidavits simply repeat what a trial jury has already heard, while others are irrelevant because they come from witnesses who never testified.

Associated Press Writer Mark Sherman contributed to this report from Washington.

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