Troy Davis' Clemecy Rejected

The State of Georgia, seemingly unafraid of the risk of putting an innocent man to death, has denied clemency for Troy Davis (TalkLeft coverage collected here). He is scheduled for execution on September 23.

A county jury in 1991 convicted Mr. Davis in the 1989 murder of Mark Allen MacPhail, an off-duty police officer moonlighting as a security guard who was shot to death while responding to a late-night fight at a Burger King in Savannah.

Mr. Davis testified he was at a nearby pool hall and left before Officer MacPhail arrived. The prosecution offered no murder weapon, DNA or fingerprints tying Mr. Davis to the killing but instead relied heavily on testimony from witnesses. Since the trial, seven key witnesses have recanted, saying they were bullied by investigators into lying under oath.

Why is the recantation of seven witnesses something the State of Georgia is prepared to ignore? [more ...]

“Troy’s case represents everything wrong with the death penalty — from procedural obstacles to racial bias to witness mishandling to inadequate counsel,” said Jared Feuer of Amnesty International.

The head of the Southern Center for Human Rights, Stephen B. Bright, a law professor at Yale, called the decision “shocking.” “For somebody to be executed,” Mr. Bright said, “we really should be sure beyond doubt that the person is guilty.”

Doubt of Troy Davis' guilt is quite real. Yet he's scheduled to die next week.

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    Shocking indeed (none / 0) (#1)
    by HK on Mon Sep 15, 2008 at 05:57:53 AM EST
    A thread on TL about prostitution posted the same day as this one has drawn 22 comments and yet this one about the prospect of a man who may well be innocent being denied clemency has (as I write) not draw a single remark.  Is everyone in a state of shock?  Or has it become commonplace in the US that states execute people with very little evidence of their guilt?

    People are very quick to say to those who oppose the death penalty, 'What if that victim was your son?'  Few people consider the question, 'What if that death row inmate was your son?'

    Miscarriage of Justice (none / 0) (#2)
    by Doc Rock on Mon Sep 15, 2008 at 07:36:37 AM EST
    Where is this story in the MSM?  It ain't on TV! I haven't heard it on PBS.  

    Locally, it was on the front page (none / 0) (#4)
    by kenosharick on Mon Sep 15, 2008 at 10:03:45 AM EST
    of Sunday's Metro page in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Having lived in Georgia for a year now, I must say this does not surprise me.

    Thanks TChris for blogging this (none / 0) (#3)
    by TN Dem on Mon Sep 15, 2008 at 08:17:08 AM EST
    Anmy Ray (One of the Indigo Girls) mentioned this at their show at Chastain Park in Atlanta Saturday night and I couldn't remember Troy's name to look the case up when I got home. I came here figuring someone would have blogged it and you did not fail me ;o)

    Hopefully, more of the several thousand at that show will become curious and look into the case.

    The questions is, what can we everyday citizens do at this point? I am not being challenging, I am really looking for ideas on ways we can help here, so if anyone has some idea, please let me know.

    Whenever one of these come up (none / 0) (#9)
    by waldenpond on Mon Sep 15, 2008 at 01:44:06 PM EST
    here, I contact my reps in CA to try and kill that feeling of futility.  I keep trying to push limits on what should be required to even consider the death penalty hoping that at least nibbling away at it will it get where I want it.. no death penalty.  

    Forgive me for even thinking it (none / 0) (#5)
    by McKinless on Mon Sep 15, 2008 at 10:33:38 AM EST
    ... but I think Republicanism has a lot to do with it.

    "seven witnesses have recanted" (none / 0) (#6)
    by diogenes on Mon Sep 15, 2008 at 11:51:47 AM EST
    Are any of them being prosecuted for perjury (if their recantations are to be believed, then their original false testimony put an "innocent" man on death row), or are perjury traps only saved for Republicans like Scooter Libby?
    Isn't it an old law school adage that "justice dalayed is justice denied" because "witnesses die and memories fade"?
    If seven witnesses suddenly remembered (after giving statements to the contrary) that this guy did it the defense lawyers all over the country would be all over them.

    Shoe on Other Foot (none / 0) (#13)
    by billlall on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 02:32:23 PM EST
    You are so right!  If seven witnesses came out of the woodwork today to affirm Davis' guilt, his defense lawyers would move hell and high water to ensure that they were not heard!  

    Nightmare (none / 0) (#7)
    by lentinel on Mon Sep 15, 2008 at 11:59:31 AM EST
    This is the ultimate nightmare for an individual in this society.

    You asked, "Why is the recantation of seven witnesses something the State of Georgia is prepared to ignore? "

    I don't see an answer to that question.

    Is it an overzealous prosecutor with political ambitions?
    A corrupt judge?
    A timid governor?
    Hate and indifference?
    A society that tolerates slaughter to its' children and the children of others as its' foreign policy?

    I don't see the answer.
    Why are the recanted testimonies being ignored?

    Are there any statements by officials stating their reasons for permitting this horror?

    recantations (none / 0) (#8)
    by txpublicdefender on Mon Sep 15, 2008 at 12:22:40 PM EST
    Recantations are treated with great suspicion in the criminal just system, particularly when they come after a conviction.  The system is heavily biased in favor of the credibility of the original statement or testimony.  I'm not sure if there is any real social science evidence or statistics in determining which statement is more likely to be truthful--how could you definitively tell--but because the system is so tilted against the defendant once he is convicted, that is where the courts come out.

    For that reason, I am not surprised that he has been unable to get a court to overturn his conviction.  But, that is where whoever the state gives the clemency power is supposed to come in.  They are supposed to look at everything and be the last failsafe to ensure that an innocent should not be executed.  Supreme Court opinions upholding the limits of court review even of claims of actual innocence talk about that all the time.  They talk about how it is okay if the courts use procedural rules and an interpretation of the Constitution that says it is not unconstitutional to execute an innocent person (Scalia!) because there is always executive clemency to catch the cases of actual innocence that fall through the procedural cracks of the courts.  Of course, the problem you often have with clemency boards and governors these days is that, for political reasons, they don't want to be the one to commute a sentence or grant clemency, so you will often hear them say that they are denying any clemency because the "courts have already rejected these claims" or "this case has been reviewed [some large number] different times and has always been upheld; [umpteen] number of judges, and 12 jurors have approved the execution," etc.  So, they both point fingers at each other, and, in the end, it ends up being no one's responsibility when an innocent man is executed.

    This is a travesty.

    I would call off the execution, (none / 0) (#10)
    by dugan49 on Sun Sep 21, 2008 at 08:24:10 AM EST
    even though I am not persuaded by the 7 recantations. I don't believe the recantaions or the reasons given for them. But to me there can be no mud in the water when the death penalty is applied. Life in prison would be proper in this case.

    Recantation or Obfuscation? (none / 0) (#11)
    by billlall on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 02:11:59 PM EST
    There have not been recantations in the Davis case so much as a few of the witnesses have said that given the amount of time that has passed, they would have a difficult time identifying Davis were the case tried today (19 years later).

    IF Davis didn't do it (which I do not believe any more than I believe Jamal and Kevin Cooper's innocence), why did he flee?  

    Why did he admit to a friend that he had been involved in an argument at the Burger King (near the shooting) and had struck someone with a gun?  In that argument, the allegation was that he had pistol-whipped Larry Young, a homeless man just prior to shooting MacPhail who responded to Young's cry for help.

    If Troy Davis had not pistol-whipped Larry Young over a beer, the subsequent shooting of MacPhail would not have occurred.  

    Nearly two decades have passed since Davis shot this police officer.  Cooper professes his innocence as well, receiving Amnesty International's assistance along with so many other groups.  The additional testing he received (decades later as well) SEALED THE FILE on his case proving NOT his innocence, but further demonstrating his evil and his guilt.  

    I would not throw out the baby with the bath water, but cases like Davis, Jamal and Cooper are illustrative that groups that oppose the death penalty under ANY circumstances are not really interested in providing any sense of true justice for victims of crime.  

    Even if Davis' case were crystal clear, there would still be thousands of people lined up against the death penalty's application on the principle of it, regardless of the victims and circumstances.  This is disingenous at best.

    We all have a duty to ensure that only guilty people are punished for ANY crime from shoplifting to murder, but in my mind, Davis and his fellow cop-killer (Jamal) are guilty as sin.  There can be only one punishment for murder.

    Shoe on Other Foot (none / 0) (#12)
    by billlall on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 02:31:11 PM EST
    I love Diogenes point!  If seven witnesses came out of the woodwork today to affirm Davis' guilt, his defense lawyers would move hell and high water to ensure that they were not heard!  Right on Diogenes!