FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

A Supreme Injustice

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by death row prisoner Troy Davis, clearing the way for the state of Georgia to set a third execution date in the coming weeks.

It was another painful blow for Troy, an innocent man who has spent nearly 20 years facing the threat of execution for a crime he didn’t commit. He has evidence that points to his innocence which has never been heard by a jury–yet one court after another, citing laws that sharply restrict what prisoners can raise during appeals, has turned down his pleas to listen to the truth.

CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen called the decision the “gruesome but inevitable conclusion” of a “decades-long, law-and-order-fueled trend toward restricting appellate avenues in criminal cases.”

The obvious injustices in this case have moved people around the country and across the world.

Troy is Black, and he is accused of killing a white police officer, Mark MacPhail, in Savannah, Ga., in 1989. There is no physical evidence linking him to the crime–no murder weapon, no fingerprints or DNA, no tests showing gunpowder residue.

Troy was convicted entirely because of eyewitness testimony. But seven of the nine witnesses who testified against Troy have since recanted, with many saying they were coerced by police who were frantic to pin the murder of a fellow officer on someone. Of the two witnesses who stick to their stories, one at first couldn’t identify Davis for police, and the other, Sylvester Coles, was initially the cops’ prime suspect. In the years since, five people have come forward to say they heard Coles admit he killed MacPhail.

The unreliability of eyewitness testimony is one of the sordid secrets of the justice system. According to a 2007 study of 200 cases in which people were freed from prison after DNA evidence proved them innocent, erroneous eyewitness identifications were the leading cause of the wrongful convictions in 79 percent of cases.

But the courts won’t even consider this question. When the Georgia Supreme Court rejected Troy’s appeal by a 4-3 vote earlier this year, the judges wrote that recanted testimony shouldn’t be reconsidered unless there was “no doubt of any kind” that the testimony at the original trial was “purest fabrication.” That standard can’t be met short of ironclad evidence proving a witness couldn’t have seen what they claimed to.

By refusing to hear the same appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court put its stamp of approval on this twisted Georgia ruling–and on the series of laws that prevent prisoners from ever raising new evidence of innocence, however compelling.

“The highly politicized, step-by-step closing of the courthouse doors to appeals like this–the intentional restriction of meaningful appeals rights–may send an innocent man to his death,” wrote CBS News’ Cohen.

* * *

THROUGH IT all, authorities at every level have seemed intent on causing Troy and his supporters as much mental and emotional anguish as possible.

When he faced his first execution date in July 2007, Troy came within 24 hours of being put to death before the state Board of Pardons and Paroles granted a stay. When a second execution date was set for late last month, the parole board heard more witnesses in the case–then declined Troy’s petition without any deliberations.

That time, Troy came within two hours of dying–before the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in with a stay. Yet the justices gave no clue how or when they would decide the case, putting off a private discussion of the case and saying nothing during several days when word of their decision was expected.

When the court finally announced it wouldn’t take up Troy’s case, the justices gave no explanation whatsoever.

But the facts of this case demand an explanation. How can anyone read Troy’s appeal and not conclude that there should be at least a hearing into the evidence of his innocence?

“I’m truly disgusted by these people,” said Martina Correia, Troy’s sister and a tireless advocate for him. “I don’t even know what to say. I wonder why I’m still a U.S. citizen sometimes.” Martina said that when she told Troy of the Supreme Court decision, “He said, ‘It doesn’t make any sense. What do I have to do?'”

Martina and Troy’s other supporters are determined to keep protesting–“until we can’t fight any more,” Martina said. Activists with the Campaign to End the Death Penalty in Washington, D.C., have called a demonstration for October 18 outside the U.S. Supreme Court building. Amnesty International has renewed its campaign to flood the Georgia parole board with calls.

If the state of Georgia kills Troy Davis, it will be the cold-blooded murder of a man who says he can prove his innocence–aided and abetted by the nine most powerful people in the American legal system.

ALAN MAASS is the editor of the Socialist Worker. He can be reached at: alanmaass@sbcglobal.net

What you can do

Demonstrate on October 18 in Washington, D.C., against the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear Troy’s case. Gather on the steps of the Supreme Court building at 2 p.m. E-mail mikestark2003@yahoo.com for information.

Amnesty International is asking people to e-mail or fax the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles through Amnesty’s Troy Davis Online Action Center. You can also write a letter to the editor asking the Board of Pardons and Paroles to stop Troy’s execution.

Find out more about Troy’s case at the Troy Anthony Davis Web site.

Marlene Martin’s “Anatomy of a frameup,” [5] published in the new issue of the International Socialist Review, documents the long history of injustices in Troy’s case. Troy’s sister, Martina Correia, was interviewed in the New Abolitionist, newsletter of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, in an article titled “The fight for my brother Troy.” [6]

For more information about the fight against the death penalty nationwide, visit the Web site of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty [7].

 

 

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
April 09, 2020
John Davis
Freedom Virus
Vincent Emanuele
The New Normal: Cascading and Multilayered Crises
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie’s Last Tape
John O'Kane
Remove the Boomer Virus and What Virus Remains?
Kevin Bixby – Daryl T. Smith
The Border Wall Risks Us All
Nick Pemberton
Could COVID-19 Count Fox News Among Its Victims?
Howard Lisnoff
American Exceptionalism in the Face of Covid-19
Charles Pierson
We Are Living (And Dying) in Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death”
Sam Husseini
Sanders Suspends: What Happened? What Now?
Binoy Kampmark
Banal Terrors: Pandemics and the Ordinary Business of War
Ted Rall
Why We Need a New Progressive Party and How We Can Create It
Walden Bello
Martin Khor: the Making of a Global Activist
Ariel Dorfman
COVID-19 and the Lessons of Life in Exile
Merriam Ansara
John Lennon in Quarantine: a Letter From Havana
George Wuerthner
Politics and Corruption at Grand Canyon
Eugene Schulman
Lost in the Pandemic: the Forever Wars
Dean Baker
Basic Economics for Economic Columnists: a Depression is a Process, Not an Event
George Ochenski
The Dishonest Mr. Daines
Mike Ferner
Love in a Dangerous Time
Brian Horejsi
Beware Government Secrecy in Times of Pandemic
Sam Pizzigati
No Fennel in the Sausage, No $600 for the Jobless
Jason Christensen – John Carter
Conservation Groups Oppose the Nature Conservancy’s Cattle Grazing Development Project on the Border of Canyonlands National Park
April 08, 2020
Melvin Goodman
The Impact of COVID-19 on the Body Politic
Eve Ottenberg
Amid Plague, Sanctions are Genocide
Vijay Prashad, Du Xiaojun – Weiyan Zhu
How China Learned About SARS-CoV-2 in the Weeks Before the Global Pandemic
Bill Quigley
Seven Disturbing Facts About COVID-19 in Louisiana
Joyce Nelson
BlackRock Takes Command
Geoff Dutton
Coronavirus as Metaphor: It’s Not Peanuts
Richard Moser
From Strike Wave to General Strike
Gary Leupp
Could COVID-19 Kill Capitalism?
Thomas Klikauer – Nadine Campbell
Corona, Capital and Class in Germany
Tom Crofton
Aspirational vs Pragmatic: Why My Radicalness is Getting More Radical
Steve Kelly
Montana Ballot Access Decision Suppresses Green Party Voters
Jacob Hornberger
Muhammad Ali’s Fight Against the Pentagon
Phil Mattera
The Rap Sheets of the Big Ventilator Producers
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Remdesivir and Hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19?
Rick Baum
When “Moderate” Democrats Lead the Ticket and Win, Down-Ballot Candidates Soon Suffer Losses
Jake Johnston
Tens of Millions Will Be Pushed into Poverty Amid COVID-Induced Recession
Kim C. Domenico
Healthy and Unhealthy Fear in the Age of Coronavirus
John W. Whitehead
Draconian Lockdown Powers and Civil Liberties
Binoy Kampmark
University Bailouts, Funding and Coronavirus
Luke Ruediger
BLM Timber Sale Increases Fire Risk, Reduces Climate Resilience and Harms Recreation
John Kendall Hawkins
Slavoj Žižek’s Virulent Polemic Against Covid-19, and Stuff!
Nyla Ali Khan
Finding Meaning and Purpose in Adversity
April 07, 2020
Joel McCleary – Mark Medish
Paradigm Shift by Pandemic
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail