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Troy Davis' fate now in the hands of the US Supreme Court

Troy Davis, who's scheduled to be executed tomorrow night, should get a new trial. An overwhelming majority of those who testified against him when he was convicted of murdering a Savannah police officer in 1989 have since recanted or admitted they lied. To carry out an execution based on such faulty testimony places the much-maligned death penalty on even more morally wobbly footing. If you support the death penalty, the Troy Davis case should appear to you as a threat to its future.

Now, Davis' fate now rests with the US Supreme Court. This just in from the Georgia Supreme Court:

In a 6-to-1 decision, the Georgia Supreme Court today denied Troy Anthony Davis’ motion for a stay of execution. All the Justices concurred, except Justice Robert Benham, who dissented. Attorneys for Davis had asked this Court to delay his execution while they attempted to appeal his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. But in today’s order, the Georgia Supreme Court found that proper jurisdiction for that request lies with the U.S. Supreme Court, where two matters are pending.

Davis’s attorneys filed a petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court on July 14, asking it to consider his appeal of this Court’s 4-to-3 decision last March denying his bid for a new trial. On Sept. 16, Davis’s attorneys also filed in the U.S. Supreme Court a motion for stay of execution.

“Because the Supreme Court of the United States rather than this Court properly has jurisdiction over Davis’s pending petition for a writ of certiorari and because it appears that Davis has already filed in that Court a motion for a stay of execution, his motion for a stay of execution filed in this Court is denied,” the order says.

In a concurrence, Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears writes that she agrees with today’s decision to deny the motion. She wrote the dissent in the decision last March, joined by Presiding Justice Carol Hunstein and Justice Robert Benham, and arguing in favor of a new hearing on the evidence. “I still believe that Davis is entitled to that hearing,” Chief Justice Sears writes in today’s concurrence. “Nevertheless, this case is currently pending before the United States Supreme Court on Davis’s petition for certiorari, and jurisdiction is properly in the Supreme Court, not this Court.”

Davis is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection tomorrow – Tuesday, Sept. 23 – at 7:00 P.M. at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, GA. He was convicted of the 1989 murder of Savannah Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court had scheduled a conference for Sept. 29 to discuss whether it would consider Davis’ appeal, that Court is expected to rule on the pending proceedings before tomorrow night.


A Death Row visit with Troy A. Davis

Sunday September 21, 2008

By Patrick Dyer

Today I visited Troy Anthony Davis on Georgia's death row, a little over 48 hours before the state plans to put him to death for a crime he didn't commit. As I traveled the highway, through the red clay and green pine trees of Georgia this mild autumn Sunday morning listening to Bob Marley, I pondered what it might be like as an innocent man facing an execution in two days. Soon enough I arrived at the front wall of the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, located in Butts County, GA. The scenery just inside the front gate on Prison Boulevard, with pond, trees, flowers, and chirping birds belies the heinousness of what lies at the end of the road - a massive penitentiary housing the state's death chamber for it's ritual execution of prisoners.

After parking, I stood outside the entrance area with a small group of people who were waiting to visit other prisoners. One of those waiting referred me to the sign-in sheet, then added, "they'll get you when they feel like it". While I waited for the next 20 minutes I conversed with the group awaiting entrance, all of them upset and shocked that Troy was denied clemency. Biding my time, I stared at the words "wisdom", "justice", and "moderation" etched on Georgia's state seal.

One of the first couple of his visitors to arrive, I met Troy Davis for the first time. Thanks to the relentless campaign waged by Troy, his family, and supporters, the name Troy Davis is known around the planet. Yet the person I met was humble and down-to-earth, quick to begin talking about the help that other death row prisoners need. Troy struck me immediately as a warm and compassionate person. He spent almost as much time talking about the injustice of other cases as he did about his own, repeatedly saying "this is much larger than Troy Davis."

Troy told me that he wanted me to tell people that it's time to say "enough is enough!" and to "demand a complete change in the system". We talked about all the support he has on the outside, with people around the world fighting for his life. Troy then spent time talking about some of the many injustices of his case, a legal lynching to be sure. He said that he, like so many others stuck on death row, were legally incapacitated by "procedural defaults" from their attorneys, many of them the fault of the Georgia Resource Center. Once an attorney with his legal team returned to court after lunch so intoxicated that her eyes were bloodshot and she reeked of alcohol.

At his habeas hearing held in a prison shack-turned-into-a-courtroom just off death row, Troy anxiously awaited the arrival of his family, who had spent their own money to rent vans to transport witnesses from Savannah. But as Troy walked into the shack-courtroom, his attorney was saying that neither his family nor his witnesses would be allowed to appear, given that it was "too expensive" to transport the witnesses.

By the time effective legal counsel got on board with his defense, Troy's case was too far gone. In fact, one attorney with his private Washington, DC law firm told him that had they gotten the case five years earlier, Troy would be home by now.

"And even if none of those witnesses recanted", Troy emphasized with his southern drawl as he leaned closer to me, "my fingerprints still don't match".

Troy also gave his analysis of why the Parole Board refused to grant clemency. Given that the board, appointed by Gov. Sonny Perdue, is stacked with "ex"-law enforcement and prosecution types, it's no surprise. "The police and prosecution tactics used in my case are the same ones they used and that are used all over. If they stop my execution because of the police interrogation methods and prosecutor misconduct, it exposes their entire system."

Over the course of the next hour, Troy's mother, sisters, brother, niece, nephew, and numerous supporters joined us in the caged visiting room. The six hour visitation flew by with a positive atmosphere of love and support. Most of the time was spent laughing, joking, and telling family stories that included childhood nicknames, teenage dating escapades, high school prom dates, and more.

Eventually visiting hours wound down, and Troy was handcuffed then taken inside the entrance to one of the prison corridors, where we were allowed to join him for photographs. As a fellow prisoner snapped pictures, Troy arranged different combinations of his family and supporters for each picture, as prison guards observed from the perimeter.

When the photo session ended, it was time for us to hug Troy goodbye. In a stirring and emotion-packed series of hugs, we all took turns saying goodbye. Two prisoners began printing the pictures as guards led Troy away. "Troy is such a good guy" one of them commented while we waited. Then suddenly someone yelled, "He's waving", and family members all strained to look through the prison bars down the long hallway to death row, seeing Troy's smiling face as his handcuffed hands waved goodbye.


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Georgia set to execute man for officer's death

By GREG BLUESTEIN – 43 minutes ago

ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia man convicted of killing an off-duty police officer was set to be executed Tuesday, even though witnesses have backed away from their testimony and questions remain about whether he is truly guilty.

Seven of the nine witnesses who helped put Troy Davis on death row for the 1989 murder have since recanted their testimony, and Davis' attorneys say that others claim another man pulled the trigger.

But prosecutors have labeled the witness statements "suspect" and the courts have consistently refused requests for a new trial.

Influential advocates, including former President Jimmy Carter and South Africa Archbishop Desmond Tutu, insist that there's enough doubt about his guilt to merit a new trial for 39-year-old Troy Davis. Davis' only hope for a reprieve lies with the U.S. Supreme Court.

A divided Georgia Supreme Court has twice rejected his request for a new trial, and rejected his appeal to delay the execution by a 6-1 vote Monday afternoon. The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles also turned down his bid for clemency after a daylong hearing.

As his legal options dwindle, Davis supporters have organized a series of rallies and vigils around the state.

They are calling for the prison staff scheduled to oversee the execution to call in sick and picketed the offices of the company that provides medical staff for the execution. They also plan a demonstration at the Georgia Capitol and vigils at eight towns around the state.

Amnesty International has taken up the cause, helping organize rallies as far away as Paris. The execution site, a state prison in Jackson, Ga., is expected to attract dozens of protesters, including the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Davis was convicted of the 1989 murder of 27-year-old officer Mark MacPhail, who was working off-duty as a security guard at a bus station.

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.

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

Prosecutors have contended in court hearings 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.

Davis' attorneys asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the execution until it has a chance to discuss whether to hear the case at a conference next week. The court could decide within hours.

"The world is watching Georgia," said Martina Correia, Davis' sister. "Everything you do in the dark always comes back to light."


Supreme Court issues stay of execution for Davis


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Jackson — The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a stay of execution for Troy Anthony Davis less than two hours before he was to be put to death by lethal injection.


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Troy Davis now waits for US Supreme Court decision

Posted: Sep 24, 2008 03:17 PM PDT

Updated: Sep 24, 2008 04:07 PM PDT

By Don Logana - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - He gave his last recorded statement and was prepared to die. But the US Supreme Court gave convicted killer Troy Davis a last minute stay of execution. See Stay of execution granted for Troy Davis.

So the question tonight, what happens next?

This latest twist the in the Troy Davis case creates a few possibilities.

Monday, the US Supreme Court will review his request for an appeal. If they accept it, it's a whole new ball game. If they deny it, the next execution date may be his last one.

"God. He stepped on up and showed up," Davis' family said Tuesday night.

Troy Davis' family thanked a higher power but now, the power lies with the nine US Supreme Court justices.

"I am very thankful he has been granted a stay and I am hoping that the US Supreme Court will accept his case because they gave him a one week stay so they could review his case," Martina Correia, Davis' sister, told WTOC. "I am praying they took the time to look at the information for what it was and they take the time to examine it a lot more."

"The Supreme Court denied him in '07 and we know there is nothing new in the case," Annelie MacPhail, Mark MacPhail's sister, told WTOC. "It will be heard one more time and we feel justice will be served."

The family of Mark MacPhail, the Savannah police officer Troy Davis was convicted of killing in 1989, believe the right man is waiting on death row.

But the US Supreme Court will now review Troy Davis' case one more time next Monday.

Four of the nine justices must accept the request for an appeal for a new trial or court hearing to present new evidence, which was denied by the Georgia Supreme Court. If they don't, the stay is no longer in effect and Davis, depending on when the Supreme Court comes to a decision, could be put to death next Tuesday.

Davis' family and supporters are hoping the highest court in the country sees what they see.

"That's all we asked for and that's what we got today," Reverend Al Sharpton told WTOC. "They will look at it and hopefully they will see what I see and that is you can't take a man's life if he is he convicted on testimonies which have been mostly recanted."

"The fight is not over. We still have to get the Supreme Court to hear the case and the arguments," Correia said. "I know if they were to take this case, one day my brother will be vindicated and walk free."

According to the Georgia Supreme Court, Troy Davis' window for execution runs until noon next Tuesday. If the US Supreme Court denies his request for an appeal for a new trial or hearing, the State Corrections Department must then decide if they can logistically carry out an execution by noon Tuesday.

If they can't, the Attorney General's office must seek a new execution order with a date set sometime in October.

Of course, if the US Supreme Court accepts the appeal, hearing dates would be scheduled for early next year and the stay of execution would remain in effect.


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  • 2 weeks later...
To all,

I want to thank all of you for your efforts and dedication to Human Rights and Human Kindness, in the past year I have experienced such emotion, joy, sadness and never ending faith.

It is because of all of you that I am alive today, as I look at my sister Martina I am marveled by the love she has for me and of course I worry about her and her health, but as she tells me she is the eldest and she will not back down from this fight to save my life and prove to the world that I am innocent of this terrible crime.

As I look at my mail from across the globe, from places I have never ever dreamed I would know about and people speaking languages and expressing cultures and religions I could only hope to one day see first hand. I am humbled by the emotion that fills my heart with overwhelming, overflowing Joy.

I can't even explain the insurgence of emotion I feel when I try to express the strength I draw from you all, it compounds my faith and it shows me yet again that this is not a case about the death penalty, this is not a case about Troy Davis, this is a case about Justice and the Human Spirit to see Justice prevail.

I cannot answer all of your letters but I do read them all, I cannot see you all but I can imagine your faces, I cannot hear you speak but your letters take me to the far reaches of the world, I cannot touch you physically but I feel your warmth everyday I exist.

So Thank you and remember I am in a place where execution can only destroy your physical form but because of my faith in God, my family and all of you I have been spiritually free for some time and no matter what happens in the days, weeks to come, this Movement to end the death penalty, to seek true justice, to expose a system that fails to protect the innocent must be accelerated.

There are so many more Troy Davis'. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this Unjust system city by city, state by state and country by country.

I can't wait to Stand with you, no matter if that is in physical or spiritual form, I will one day be announcing, "I AM TROY DAVIS, and I AM FREE!"

Never Stop Fighting for Justice and We will Win!

-- Troy Davis


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  • 2 years later...
An overwhelming majority of those who testified against him when he was convicted of murdering a Savannah police officer in 1989 have since recanted or admitted they lied.

34 people testified.

7 people recanted or said they lied.

7 out of 34 IS NOT an overwhelming majority.

Not a comment on the death penalty or Troy Davis, just a comment on the reporting of the story.

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Also, the police officer wasn't the only person Troy Davis killed that day. That other person has been completely lost in all the discussion. Just like when people talk about Lee Harvey Oswald, they never mention that he also killed Officer JD Tippit after killing the President.

If there was no conclusive evidence that Davis killed the cop, he shouldn't have been executed for it. However, that doesn't mean he should have been out walking free, either. He killed someone anyway, even if he didn't kill the cop.

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