The Pending Execution of Troy Davis
and JEN MARLOWE
Troy Anthony Davis’ execution date and time has been set. If clemency is not granted, Davis will soon be choosing his last meal and determining how his body should be disposed of after his death, scheduled for 7pm on September 23rd.
Davis’ case for clemency is compelling, and has already attracted the attention of media and human rights groups in July of last year. Twenty-four hours before Davis’ scheduled execution on July 16, 2007, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles issued a ninety-day stay to allow it to consider evidence of innocence presented at Davis’ clemency hearing.
The Georgia Supreme Court subsequently agreed to hear the death row prisoner’s extraordinary motion for a new trial, but in March the Court rejected the motion largely on procedural grounds in a 4-3 vote.
Troubled by this result, Chief Justice Sears stated in her dissent:
“[…] I believe that this case illustrates that this Court’s approach in extraordinary motions for new trials based on new evidence is overly rigid and fails to allow an adequate inquiry into the fundamental question, which is whether or not an innocent person might have been convicted or even, as in this case, might be put to death.”
In July of 2007, the Board of Pardons and Paroles said that it would “not allow an execution to proceed in this State unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused.”
But were Davis to be granted a new trial today, the State would have great difficulty proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt. There was no physical evidence linking Davis to the crime for which he was convicted, the 1989 murder of an off-duty police officer in Savannah, Mark MacPhail. At the trial, the witness testimony presented inconsistencies, and since then, seven of nine non-police witnesses have recanted or contradicted their original testimony, several citing that they gave their original statements against Davis under police intimidation or coercion.
Furthermore, affidavits signed by numerous people who came forward after Davis’ conviction implicate one of the non-recanting witnesses in the murder. These affidavits put that witness, Sylvester Coles, at the scene with a .38 caliber gun – the same caliber as the murder weapon, and detail how he hid the gun after the shooting in a dark parking lot and even later boasted about having committed the murder and escaping punishment. At the time of the original investigation, Coles and his lawyer met promptly with the police, who subsequently neglected to question Cole’s involvement in the murder, search his house for the murder weapon, or include his picture in witness photo spreads.
The testimony of the other non-recanting witness is also highly questionable. He identified Davis at trial as the shooter, although he had claimed two years earlier that he “wouldn’t recognize them [the shooter and another man at the scene] again except for their clothes.”
Numerous national, state, and local human rights groups and individuals are taking actions to protest Davis’ imminent fate. They are organizing a rally to take place on September 11th at six in the evening at the State Capitol in Atlanta, a day before Troy’s scheduled clemency hearing with the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. Amnesty International launched an on-line letter-writing campaign at www.amnestyusa.org/troydavis to urge the Board to be true to their July 2007 words, stating that no execution would proceed in Georgia unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused. If Troy Anthony Davis, whose case against him is full of holes, doubts and discrepancies, is executed on September 23rd, it will be, indeed, a travesty of justice.
LAURA TATE KAGEL is the State Death Penalty Abolition Coordinator for Amnesty International USA in Georgia.
Jen Marlowe is an activist/writer/filmmaker who has been following Troy Davis’s case and corresponding via letters with Davis.
Justice Matters: Rally to Save Troy Davis
Thursday, September 11, 2008
6 – 8 p.m.
Georgia State Capitol
(front steps on Washington St.)
firstname.lastname@example.org / 404-876-5661 ext. 13