Wednesday, September 24, 2008

US Supreme Court Grants Stay of Execution for Troy Anthony Davis

U.S. Supreme Court stays Georgia execution

Troy Davis says he learned the news on television

Officer's mother says, "I am as angry as can be. I'm disgusted"

Davis' attorneys allege mistaken identity, say witnesses have recanted

Supreme Court ruled in a special hearing hours before scheduled execution

By Rusty Dornin

JACKSON, Georgia (CNN) -- The U.S. Supreme Court granted a last-minute reprieve to a Georgia man fewer than two hours before he was to be executed for the 1989 slaying of an off-duty police officer.

Troy Anthony Davis learned that his execution had been stayed when he saw it on television, he told CNN via telephone in his first interview after the stay was announced.

He said he was "thankful to God" for the news that came during an emergency session the U.S. Supreme Court convened.

Davis said "everyone should pray" for the slain officer's family.

The 39-year-old also said that he is "very grateful for everything that everyone is doing" for him and that he would "accept" whatever decision the Supreme Court rendered in the coming days about his case.

At the Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, a crowd of Davis' supporters, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, erupted in cheers when the stay was announced. Some shouted "Hallelujah!"

Davis has long said he didn't kill Mark MacPhail, a Savannah, Georgia, police officer, and the U.S. Supreme Court was the last option for Davis to have his execution postponed. It was scheduled to move forward at 7 p.m. ET.

Seven of the nine witnesses who initially testified that Davis was the killer have recanted. There was no physical evidence presented at his trial, and no weapon was found. But Davis' petitions for a new trial have been denied.

The MacPhail family said they were angry about the stay.

"I am angry as can be. I'm disgusted. It should have been over by now," MacPhail's mother, Anneliese MacPhail, told CNN. "Nobody thinks about what the victims' family has gone through again and again.

"I was hoping it would be over today," she said.

Earlier, she said, "There is no possibility he's innocent, not according to what's been said in court."

Davis was convicted in 1991 of killing the officer as he responded to an altercation in a Burger King parking lot.

Earlier Tuesday, Davis refused his last meal, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections, which will still provide him with macaroni and cheese, pinto beans, green beans, lettuce and tomato salad, corn bread, fruit cobbler and tea.

Prison officials said that he was offered ativan, a mild sedative. But Davis refused to take the drug, he said.

Many had asked Georgia to grant Davis a new trial: celebrities like Susan Sarandon, Harry Belafonte and the Indigo Girls; world leaders such as former President Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Pope Benedict XVI; and former and current U.S. lawmakers like Bob Barr, Carolyn Moseley Braun and John Lewis.

Amnesty International has issued a 39-page report questioning his conviction, and protesters have been gathering at the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta this week.

Davis' sister, Martina Correia, said she was sleepless Monday night and was spending Tuesday at his side. She said she planned to stay until prison officials told her to leave at 3 p.m.

Before the stay was announced, she said, "We still hope the U.S. Supreme Court will look into my brother's case and give some relief. We will have a lot of family time with him and recall old times and pray together."

The Georgia Supreme Court turned down the plea for a stay in Davis' execution Monday, saying the U.S. Supreme Court "properly has jurisdiction over Davis' pending petition."

Davis was convicted of MacPhail's 1989 murder largely on the testimony of nine witnesses.

"When you only have eyewitness testimony and you have no physical evidence, people have fallacies and people make mistakes," Correia said.

Davis' lawyers and supporters say this is a case of mistaken identity. Seven of the nine trial witnesses have changed their statements, saying they were mistaken, they feared retribution from the man they say actually killed MacPhail or that police pressured them into fingering Davis.

During the trial, witnesses said Davis and two other men were harassing a homeless man and followed him across the street from a parking lot at the Greyhound bus station in Savannah.

MacPhail was off-duty. He saw the skirmish and ran over to break up the fight. MacPhail was shot, and witnesses told police Davis fired the two shots that killed him.

A manhunt ensued. Davis surrendered nine days later.

Monty Holmes is one of the witnesses who said Davis was the culprit. He has changed his story and alleges that police coerced him.

"They were trying to get to me to say that he did it, but I know he didn't do it," Holmes said last year at a rally for Davis.

Savannah police Maj. Everett Ragan headed the MacPhail investigation. He denies allegations of coercion and said he doesn't believe the witnesses who have changed their stories.

Shortly before Davis was scheduled to be executed last year, Ragan told CNN, "There is no doubt in my mind we arrested the right man."

The Georgia Supreme Court also was unimpressed with the witnesses' new stories. In affirming the trial court's judgment in a 4-3 decision, the majority said that the witnesses' new testimony failed to meet the necessary benchmark: that their original testimony "in every material part is purest fabrication."

The court also was unconvinced by allegations that one of the men Davis was with that night, Sylvester "Red" Coles, killed MacPhail.

In a telephone interview in 2007, Davis acknowledged that he never told police that Coles killed MacPhail.

"I didn't because I didn't want to be a snitch," Davis said. "Yes, I know that's stupid."

Coles has never been charged with the murder and, according to court documents, has testified at least twice that he was not the killer.

Davis' lawyers claim that there are other people who saw what happened that night. Those witnesses have never testified in court but have submitted affidavits, the attorneys say.

On Monday, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles said it typically does not comment on clemency appeals but defended itself because Davis' case has received such widespread attention. The statement noted that the board postponed Davis' execution last year and has studied the case for a year.

"After an exhaustive review of all available information regarding the Troy Davis case and after considering all possible reasons for granting clemency, the board has determined that clemency is not warranted," the statement said.

CNN's Tristan Smith and Gabriel Falcon contributed to this report.

1 comment:

Daniel Slack said...

"The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government." Thomas Jefferson

I would like to start by saying that it is not that I am not against the death penalty. I believe that rapists, murderers, child molesters, and any sort of heinous physical crime should be dealt with equal force.

Recently, I have started to question why I believe the way I do about things. I began to recognize that my ideas about execution are not motivated behind the concept of justice, but by the emotional need for revenge. This led to a recognition my own hypocrisy, believing in the forgiveness and mercy of GOD, but putting myself before him in offering it to others.

Justice is the concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, fairness and equity.

Revenge consists primarily of retaliation against a person in response to a real or perceived wrong doing.

When considering the two above definitions, I wonder what is the purpose of the prison system in the United States. When I was young, I was taught that the prison system was supposed to be a means for criminals to repay society for some "debt". When they are released, the "debt" was paid.

How is the best way to repay society for a perceived debt that occurs? I believe that the best way to repay the "debt" that is owed is to make them a more productive member of society. By teaching first time or even career criminals, the skills to be successful in modern day society, they can truly repay it.

How do we stop people from turning into career criminals? By giving them an alternative path and a better career. By teaching them to be a productive member of society, they would become a much better citizen, and a much better person.

Unfortunately, Criminal Law does not seem to distinguish the fact that society is being repaid. In fact, many states put criminals to work, not as a means of rehabilitation, but a means of exploitation. As Americans, we do not realize that the Criminal Justice System has become a means of enslaving anyone who gets trapped with in it. Slavery is alive and well, it simply took on a new hi-tech face with smooth public relations promoting it and a government mandate. You cannot change a lump of coal into a diamond with a hammer and you cannot change a criminal by exploiting him criminally.

We all live in a capitalistic society and money tends to be a high priority in both business and government. One of the greatest expenses of any organization is the cost of manpower on a daily basis. What labor force can America come up with that could provide manpower at a very small cost? I believe that would be the government sponsored prison labor force.

Though slave labor is illegal and not needed in the 21st century, a slave trade has developed in America's Prison System! American citizens, with there rights stripped away, are the raw material and must be funneled into the system. How can this happen?

By promoting the idea of "once a criminal, always a criminal" and by characterizing average American citizens in the media as violent. Using title like gang bangers, drug dealers, cop killers, and even the mentally ill.

Authorities are increasingly using the criminal justice system as a substitute for health services by sending young people with mental health problems to prison.

Some 283,800 inmates are identified as having a mental illness. This represents 16% of the inmate populations of state and local jails. Jails have effectively become America’s new mental institutions; they house a larger volume of mentally ill people than all other programs combined. These inmates rarely receive the treatment that they need. Unfortunately, as a result of incarceration, they no longer have the right to proper medical and psychiatric care, as would be dictated by a citizen in governmental custody.

Let's not leave out laws that are victimless crimes, traffic citations and violations of laws concerning public decency, and include public drunkenness, illicit drug use, vagrancy and public nudity. These are the catalysts that are used to propel citizens into the 21st century slave trade.

You may ask yourself what organization would utilize the prison system as a labor force. One such company is The Federal Prison Industries, Inc. They operate 86 factories in 48 federal prisons around the country. Some of the products manufactured by this labor force are :

California prisons make Logos for Lexus;
Hawaii makes Spaulding Golf Balls;
Maryland processes hot dogs;
New Mexico makes hotel reservations;
South Carolina, electronic cables;
Oregon, Prison Blues;
Washington, Eddie Bauer and office furniture;

The list goes on and on. Unicor is currently gearing up for work on large orders from the Department of Defense, Germany, Veterans Administration Hospital, and GSA (General Services Administration). The Textile Factory (Leavenworth Penitentiary, Kansas) has received orders for postal inserts: $5,230,000 worth from the Postal Service and $1,486,425 worth from a subcontractor of Unicor. Furniture is working on a contract for D & Q Furniture totaling $2.1 million and Print is producing $1.4 million of work for GSA.

What the inmate out of this? Prisoners now manufacture everything from blue jeans, to auto parts, to electronics and furniture. Honda has paid inmates $2 an hour for doing the same work an auto worker would get paid $20 to $30 an hour to do. Konica has used prisoners to repair copiers for less than 50 cents an hour. Toys R Us used prisoners to restock shelves, and Microsoft to pack and ship software. Clothing made in California and Oregon prisons competes so successfully with apparel made in Latin America and Asia that it is exported to other countries. How can we expect criminals to appreciate the reward of good, honest, labor by exploiting them, without the right as a citizen of even the mandated minimum wage, decent medical, and psychiatric care?

More importantly, this brings up a question of the purpose for our legal system. I once believed that we are innocent until proven guilty, but now it seems that our prisons have become a government mandated indentured labor force. It has become an economic powerhouse that federal and states make money from.

You might ask, "What does this have to do with the death penalty?" My answer is simple. If our legal system is now designed to keep the flow of indentured servants in the prison system, do we, as citizens, actually have a chance at getting a fair trial or receiving the justice for the innocent as well?

"I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice." Abraham Lincoln

Daniel Slack