Wednesday, April 22, 2009

As Clock Ticks For Troy Davis Efforts Double to Stop Execution

As clock ticks for Troy Davis: Efforts double to stop execution

By Dianne Mathiowetz
Published Apr 22, 2009 1:58 PM

“Innocence matters.” These two words express the mantra of the international movement to stop the execution of Troy Anthony Davis. Davis’s conviction in the killing of off-duty Savannah policeman Mark McPhail in August 1989 is solely based on tainted eyewitness testimony. Davis has consistently and repeatedly asserted his innocence.

Seven of the nine witnesses who formed the prosecution’s case have now recanted or altered their testimony. Others have come forward to identify another man as the shooter. Many of the witness statements cite police intimidation or threats as the cause of their false testimony.

Yet on April 16, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a two-to-one decision, denied a second habeas corpus appeal that would have allowed for a full court hearing on the new evidence.

The majority opinion of Judges Joel Dubina and Stanley Marcus devoted pages to technicalities which “constrained” them from allowing a new trial. They dismissed the validity of the recantations, stating that the witnesses’ affidavits did not present clear and convincing evidence that a jury would not have found Davis guilty. The judges’ ruling declares that Davis’s lawyers did not claim his innocence in a timely fashion.

In a sharply worded dissent, Judge Rosemary Barkett refutes “the concept of punishing an innocent defendant with the death penalty simply because he did not file his papers as early as he should have.” She goes on to argue that “executing an innocent person would be an atrocious violation of our constitution” and finds the cumulative weight of the recantations, along with the new witness statements, a sufficient claim of innocence.

Davis’s case has come to exemplify the racist and arbitrary character of the death penalty in the United States. Police and prosecutorial misconduct in the pursuit of convictions of Black defendants accused of killing white victims, much less policemen, has been thoroughly documented. Georgia, like many other Southern states, has a long and bloody history of extra-legal lynching and racially biased verdicts, stretching from the period of slavery through Jim Crow segregation to today.

Over the last two years, Troy Davis has three times come within days and hours of execution by lethal injection. Each time, people mobilized to express their opposition with hundreds of thousands of petitions to Georgia officials and letters and op-ed newspaper articles written by such disparate public figures as former Republican Congress member and current Libertarian columnist Bob Barr, former-President Jimmy Carter and Pope Benedict XVI.

Numerous marches and rallies have featured Martina Correia, Davis’s sister, who has traveled the globe to expose the injustices in her brother’s case and to strengthen the anti-death penalty movement.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision includes a 30-day stay of execution to allow Davis’s lawyers to petition the U.S. Supreme Court for remedial action.

Death penalty activists have set Tuesday, May 19, as a Global Day of Action for Troy Davis. Plans are being formulated in cities across the country and around the world to win justice for him. His supporters are urged to continue contacting Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue and the Georgia Pardons and Parole Board. For more information, go to or e-mail
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