[Ppnews] The railroading of Troy Davis

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu May 5 10:31:28 EDT 2011

VOICES: The railroading of Troy Davis


Laura Moye is director of the Amnesty International USA Death Penalty 
Abolition Campaign. In this interview, Moye talks about 42-year-old 
Troy Davis, an African American who has been on death row in Georgia 
for over 19 years -- having already faced three execution dates. The 
continued railroading of Davis has sparked outrage around the world, 
and public pressure during the last few years of Davis' appeals has 
been essential to his survival today.

However, on March 28, 2011, the US Supreme Court rejected his appeal 
against a federal district court's ruling that Davis did not prove 
his innocence in an evidentiary hearing held last year. This week 
Amnesty International released an email action alert, emphasizing 
that now, more than a month after the Supreme Court ruling, Davis' 
execution date can literally be scheduled any day. The situation is 
dire, and public support is currently needed now more than ever before.

To take action and learn more, visit Amnesty International's page 
focusing on Troy Davis, as well as the Color of Change petition, 
<http://www.justicefortroy.org/>www.justicefortroy.org and 

Angola 3 News: Why does Amnesty International consider Troy Davis' 
case to be so important?

Laura Moye: Troy Davis' case is emblematic of a broken and unjust 
death penalty system. His story speaks volumes about a criminal 
justice system that is riddled with bias and error and is fixated on 
procedure more than it is on fairness.

It is often difficult to get people to understand or to be interested 
in systematic and large-scale injustice, but Troy Davis' story has 
gotten through to a lot of people and has made the abolition cause 
more tangible and real for a lot of people.

A3N: What do you think are the most compelling facts about this case?

LM: The case against Davis has unraveled, yet he still faces 
execution. The conviction rests primarily on nine key witnesses, but 
six have recanted and one contradicted her trial statement. The 
police recovered shell casings at the crime scene, which were 
naturally present given that there was a shooting. However, they 
never found a murder weapon or any other physical evidence linking 
the shell casings to Troy Davis.

Almost all of the witnesses were vulnerable for one reason or 
another. One witness was illiterate, others were minors that were 
questioned without their parents or supportive adults, some had 
criminal histories, and most were African American.

The murder of the white police officer enraged local law enforcement, 
and indeed it was a terrible crime. Officer Mark MacPhail was rushing 
to the aid of a homeless man who was beaten unconscious in a Burger 
King parking lot on the other side of a Greyhound bus station in a 
poor end of town. When he came running to the scene, he was shot, and 
he fell to the ground without even having drawn his weapon. He left 
behind a wife and two very small children. Outrage was appropriate in 
the wake of his death. However, reports about how the investigation 
was conducted call into question how fair and proper things went. 
Many speak to the intense pressure on the African American community 
to find the perpetrator. Most of the witnesses allege coercion by the 
police in obtaining statements.

Strangely, one of the two witnesses who did not recant his testimony 
has been implicated in at least nine affidavits and by a new 
eyewitness account as being the actual perpetrator. This very same 
man was the one who first reported to the police that Davis was the 
shooter. He was never treated as a suspect himself. He was not put in 
line-ups and he was present at the crime scene with other witnesses 
for a reenactment of the events.

Davis had a heck of a time trying to seek relief once his case moved 
from the trial level to the post-conviction habeas process. The 
Georgia Resource Center was hit with a two-thirds budget cut, which 
reduced the number of staff attorneys to two, representing about 
eighty prisoners. Triage was not even possible with the remaining 
resources. Yet this was the time for Davis to assemble evidence and 
an argument about his innocence claim.

Also, in the mid-1990s, the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death 
Penalty Act (AEDPA), was passed on the heels of the Oklahoma City 
Bombing. It limited access by death row prisoners [to] the federal 
appeals process, placing time limits on introduction of new evidence, 
for example. Davis' case was negatively impacted along with others.

Troy Davis has been confronted with a system that would rather hold 
onto a decision a jury made twenty years ago than admit that some 
fundamentally wrong things have happened. It is a system bent on 
preserving itself more than on being absolutely sure that injustice 
and inaccuracy are filtered out.

A3N: Please tell us more about the racism in Davis' case.

LM: Davis is African American. MacPhail, the murder victim, was 
White. The perpetrator was indisputably African American. The crime 
happened on a poor end of town, near housing projects and behind a 
Greyhound bus station. The racial dynamics in the community were 
inflamed by the murder and the ensuing investigation. Many African 
Americans have talked about the fear they felt in the midst of a very 
intense manhunt.

A3N: Do you think the injustices in his case are symptomatic of the 
overall criminal justice system in the US?

LM: Many death penalty cases have issues of unfairness. Davis' is 
less common in that there is a serious innocence claim.

However, how people are treated by the criminal justice system 
because of their background, particularly race and class, is 
illustrated by this case. The lack of resources for people's defense 
and appeals work is very common. And the difficulty in accessing the 
appeals process for meaningful relief is also very difficult.

A3N: Why have the appeals courts been so opposed to granting a new trial?

LM: The county superior court in Savannah, Georgia would not grant 
Davis' "extraordinary motion for a new trial." He appealed this all 
the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court and was denied. Interestingly, 
the Georgia Supreme Court denied his appeal by one vote.

The courts are very hesitant to re-open death penalty cases. Witness 
recantations are considered suspect and testimony by the many people 
who implicate the other suspect are dismissed as "hearsay." And yet 
we know that most of the 138 exonerees from death row did not have 
DNA at their disposal, just like Davis, who had no other kind of 
physical evidence.

At trial, the state has the burden to prove the defendant is "guilty 
beyond a reasonable doubt." After a conviction, that standard 
disappears. The prisoner then has an uphill battle to prove that the 
conviction was wrong or faulty.

A3N: When do you expect that an execution date will be set?

LM: As soon as Georgia announces that it has a protocol for carrying 
out executions again, we expect an execution warrant to be signed 
against Davis. From that point, an execution date could be two weeks away.

A couple months ago, the DEA seized Georgia's supply of lethal 
injection drugs after a complaint was filed about how they accessed 
their supply of Sodium Thiopental. Davis would already have received 
a date if this issue was not at play. So time is very much of the essence.

A3N: What can our readers do to support Troy Davis right now?

LM: We know many people have signed the petition, but this is a 
hugely important thing we need. If you have not signed the petition 
this year, please sign it again -- by going to 
<http://www.justicefortroy.org/>www.justicefortroy.org and if you 
have signed it, please share it with ten friends and ask them to do 
the same. You can print out the petition and circulate it. That's 
downloadable from the website too.

If you know clergy or legal professionals, ask them to please sign 
the sign-on letters for Troy. And when a date is set, join us for an 
international day of solidarity, where we will have demos around the 
world in advance of Davis' clemency hearing to show the parole board 
that the world is watching and demands a stop to the execution!

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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