Friday, August 27, 2010

Free Troy Davis!: Federal Court Refuses to Grant New Trial


Free Troy Davis!

Published Aug 25, 2010 2:53 PM

Whatever happened to the “presumption of innocence” that every child in this country gets told is a cornerstone of the U.S. judicial system?

A federal district judge in Savannah, Ga., ruled on Aug. 24 that Troy Davis had failed to prove his innocence, thus giving Georgia prison authorities the go-ahead to schedule his execution.

Failed to prove his innocence? But isn’t an accused presumed innocent unless evidence is put forward proving her/his guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt”? Certainly in Davis’s case, this didn’t happen. And there is a mountain of doubt.

He had gone to trial in 1991, when he was in his early twenties, accused of killing an off-duty Savannah, Ga., police officer in 1989. Convicted and put on Georgia’s death row, Davis eventually got civil liberties groups interested in his case. Finally, an appeal got as high as the Supreme Court, which ordered a new hearing.

At the evidentiary hearing this June, four people who had testified against Davis at the original trial admitted they had lied. Three said they had been coerced by police into identifying him as the killer. One, who was only 16 at the time of the murder, had been questioned by several police officers without his parents or other adults being present. Four more witnesses at the June hearing implicated another person as the killer. (Amnesty International, Aug. 24)

But this wasn’t enough for District Court Judge William T. Moore Jr., who ruled that, although “new evidence casts some additional, minimal doubt on his conviction,” Davis hadn’t proved his innocence. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Aug. 24)

Evidently guilt is assumed when the accused is a young Black man, the person killed is a police officer and the trial takes place in Georgia. Then you have to prove your innocence “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA, responded to the judge’s ruling: “The testimony that came to light demonstrates that doubt still exists, but the legal bar for proving innocence was set so high it was virtually insurmountable. It would be utterly unconscionable to proceed with this execution, plain and simple.”

Judge Moore’s ruling helps tighten the noose around many oppressed people held captive by the prison system. So many Black, Latino/a, Native, Middle Eastern and other oppressed peoples, as well as poor whites, get shoveled through the criminal “justice” system without adequate defense and then convicted by juries carefully chosen for their bias. Once this happens, all presumption of innocence is gone, according to the law itself. You can only get out if you can prove your innocence “beyond the shadow of a doubt” to a judge in a proceeding poisoned by the racist and classist assumptions that permeate this most unequal of countries.

Troy Davis, assisted by civil liberties groups and attorneys, will appeal this ruling. It’s up to the rest of us to shout his name at every opportunity and demand he get the justice he has been denied for half of his young life.
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