Innocent and Facing Execution Again

The state of Georgia has set an execution date for Troy Davis. He could be sent to the death chamber any time between September 23 and September 30 for a crime he didn’t commit.

Troy came within hours of being executed last year before the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles granted a stay of execution so the courts could consider evidence that his supporters believe shows his innocence. But the Georgia Supreme Court rejected that appeal in a 4-3 decision, over the strong objections of several justices.

That opened the way for a new execution date, and Troy’s fate may again lie with the pardons board. His supporters were shocked by the announcement of an execution date because Troy has an appeal being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court, which isn’t scheduled to discuss the case until after he is scheduled to be killed.

Activists are bracing themselves for a new drive to save Troy. Letter, faxes, petitions, e-mails and phone calls are pouring in to the pardons board and state officials from all over the world. The ACLU has been holding weekly “Tuesday for Troy” rallies in Atlanta, and Amnesty International has rescheduled a march in support of Troy for September 11 to put further pressure on the pardons board.

“Troy’s case has garnered attention from all over the world, and people will not stand for this injustice,” said Troy’s sister and most outspoken advocate, Martina Correia. “Georgia is under a microscope, and they don’t look good. Troy Davis shouldn’t be executed nor spend the rest of his life in prison for something he did not do.”

Troy was convicted and sent to death row for the 1989 murder of a police officer in Savannah, Ga., while he was off duty and working as a security guard.

As Marlene Martin of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty pointed out in the International Socialist Review, police and prosecutors wanted to solve the case fast. “In short order [after the killing], 25 fellow officers were assigned to the case and began to scour the neighborhood for the perpetrator,” Martin wrote. “The media sensationalized the case of a 27-year-old white father of two shot in the line of duty. One officer told a reporter, ‘There is a desire among the police to have the suspect locked away before McPhail is buried.’”

A few days later, Davis was arrested. Two years later, he was convicted and sentenced to death in a trial that lasted all of 10 days.

Davis’ conviction wasn’t based on physical evidence–no murder weapon was ever recovered, and prosecutors don’t claim to have fingerprint evidence or tests showing gunpowder residue on his hands from firing a weapon.

Troy was found guilty on the basis of testimony from nine people who identified him. But of those nine, seven have recanted their testimony, with several saying in sworn affidavits that they were pressured by police to finger Troy. One, Monty Holmes, stated, “I was real young at that time, and here they were questioning me about the murder of a police officer, like I was in trouble or something. I was scared…It seemed like they wouldn’t stop questioning me until I told them what they wanted to hear. So I did.”

Of the two witnesses who haven’t changed their story, one identified the shooter as left-handed, and Troy is right-handed–and the other, Sylvester Coles, was considered by police to be the prime suspect in the case until he came forward to claim to that Troy was guilty. Three people who weren’t called to testify at Troy’s trial say they heard Coles admit he committed the killing.

No jury has ever heard any of this, however–because one court after another rejected Troy’s appeals. Earlier this year, the Georgia Supreme Court refused a motion for a new trial. Justice Harold Meltin, who wrote the opinion justifying the decision, declared, “We simply cannot disregard the jury’s verdict in this case.”

The court’s chief justice, Leah Ward Sears, pointed out the absurdity of Meltin’s argument in registering her opposition to the decision: “If recantation testimony, either alone or supported by other evidence, shows convincingly that prior trial testimony was false, it simply defies all logic and morality to hold that it must be disregarded categorically.”

One prominent factor in the courts’ obstinate refusal to hear the new evidence is the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. Signed into law by Bill Clinton, the legislation further restricts the ability of death row prisoners to challenge their convictions on the federal level.

Now, Troy is once again facing execution for a crime he didn’t commit. But his supporters aren’t giving up. “We are a family of fighters, and this is only making us fight harder,” says Martina Correia. “We have to stand up to these people.”

*****

What you can do

Make your opposition to Troy Davis’ execution heard. Telephone Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles Chair Gale Buckner at 404-657-9350, or fax her at 404-651-6670. Call Georgia Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker at 404-656-3300, or fax him at 404-657-8733. Call Chatham County District Attorney Spencer Lawton at 912-652-7328, or fax him at 912-447-5396.

Amnesty International has called for a rally on September 11 [2] at 6 p.m. on the front steps of the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta. For more information, call 404-876-5661 ext. 13, or e-mail: gro.asuianull@yort.

Find out more about Troy’s case and how you can get involved at the Troy Anthony Davis Web site. You can send words of encouragement to Troy by writing to: Troy A. Davis 657378, GDCP P.O. Box 3877 G-3-79, Jackson, GA 30233.

Marlene Martin’s “Anatomy of a frameup,” 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.”

See the Campaign to End the Death Penalty Web site to learn more about the struggle against capital punishment across the country.

Alan Maass writes for Socialist Worker where this article first appeared. Read other articles by Alan, or visit Alan's website.

4 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. HR said on September 12th, 2008 at 12:33pm #

    Not surprising at all in a country where liberty and justice are, and always have been, reserved for the well-to-do.

  2. knowdoubt said on September 12th, 2008 at 1:05pm #

    Just to reinforce how corrupt the legal system is in Georgia let me relate my experience. I took a case to the Georgia Supreme Court and won. When the case3 went back to the overruled Superior Court judge he announced that the Supreme (GA) Court had not overruled him. When I petitioned again The Georgia Supreme Court declared they didn’t have Jurisdiction over THEIR OWN RULING. During the course of this litigation I discovered the defendants attorney was a judge practicing law in his own court in violation of Georgia law the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Committee said that was OK that the relevant statute said, “that a judge could practice law.” They just left off the second sentence of the statute that said, “but not in his own court.” Our republican Governor and legislators just were not interested in the concept of NO MAN ABOVE THE LAW! These guy are so corrupt that they have no business with something as lethal and irreversible as the death penalty.

  3. Gliscameria said on September 12th, 2008 at 3:02pm #

    You can’t let him out now, because if he didn’t kill a cop before, he certianly is now.

    Everyone on that jury needs to stripped and beaten half to death in public. Even if they were pressured to vote a certian way, not a one of them stood up to prevent a man from being murdered? This is not the world I want to live in.

  4. Jerry D. Rose said on September 13th, 2008 at 5:41am #

    This Georgia case is SO “deja vu all over again.” Again and again, “innocent” people have been put to death even when—maybe especially when—their cases became causes celebre—with high profile protests against impending convictions. Think Dreyfuss case, think Sacco/Vanzetti, Scottsboro boys, the Rosenbergs, etc. Time after time “new evidence” has turned up that should have exonerated the “innocent,” In the Scottsboro case, the two white women who originally claimed they were raped by 9 black boys on a train had recanted their testimony, as did most of the Troy Davis witnesses. The state of Alabama knew by the late 1930s, just as the French government knew in Dreyfuss times, the state of Massachusetts for S/C, of New York for the Rosenbergs, that they were exiling, imprisoning or executioning innocent people. But at a certain point “raison d’etre” (reasons of state) came to prevail. An Alabama Governor, for example, could not pardon the Scottsboro boys lest the admitted mistake reflect badly on the integrity of that state’s judicial system. Likewise in Massachusetts; and likewise I fear will be the case in Georgia: never mind that Troy Davis is innocent; he must be executed to upheld the glorious majesty of the state of Georgia.