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March 28, 2011

Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis now gets no review or relief from SCOTUS

As detailed in this AP report, which is headlined "High court rejects appeal from Troy Davis," this morning the US Supreme Court "has rejected an appeal from Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis, clearing the way for the state to resume planning for Davis' execution." 

As regular readers may recall, SCOTUS in 2009 ordered a district judge to conduce hearings to consider Davis' evidence suggesting his innocence for the 1989 murder that got him placed on Georgia's death row.  But the district judge was not convinced, and this order list from the Supreme Court shows that the Justices today rebuffed three different means by which Davis was seeking high court review. 

Especially notable here, I think, is that it does not appear that there were any dissents from the decision to refuse Davis any more review.  (I cannot help but speculate that Justice Stevens might have been a dissenting voice here if still on the Court.)  Especially ironic here, I think, is that it does appear that Davis could continue avoid execution for quite some time because on new concerns about Georgia's execution drugs.

Prior posts discussing recent Davis case developments:

UPDATE Over at SCOTUSblog, Lyle Denniston has an effective review and analysis of the Supreme Court's work today in the Davis matter in this post titled "Davis innocence plea rejected."

March 28, 2011 at 10:49 AM | Permalink


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I am a little surprised that there wasn't some comment on this case, possibly even a statement in support of the denial along the lines of "We should never have ordered the review to begin with but at least we aren't wasting any more time on it now".

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Mar 28, 2011 12:38:36 PM

It's this kind of stuff that congests courts! 8 eyewitnesses.. no question!

Posted by: minnesota criminal lawyer | Mar 28, 2011 2:12:27 PM

The death penalty is an abomination. The Troy Davis case is a travesty.


Posted by: Adrian Zupp | Mar 28, 2011 2:50:16 PM

Davis and his attorney's have had an enormous amount of litigation afforded to them in this case and there should be no doubt as to his guilt. It's not over yet, but I will admit they did their job well delaying justice for many years.

Posted by: DaveP | Mar 28, 2011 7:32:25 PM

Once again, as is typical in so many death penalty cases, Davis is being punished for slack work and errors of judgment by his legal team. That the Supreme Court Justices prefer to wash their hands of the matter rather than face up to the difficult questions about the legality of executing a probably innocent person, is no surprise, but is incredibly depressing and damning of the increasingly ineffectual role they play in the US Justice system today.

Posted by: peter | Mar 29, 2011 3:43:37 AM

As peter demonstrates, phony claims of factual innocence simply will not stop, the facts be damned. The abolitionists are furious that Troy Davis, who they had set to succeed the thoroughly guilty Roger Keith Coleman as the "Innocent But Executed" poster boy, has now blown up in their hands, as Coleman did.

The abolitionists lose Kagan, Sotomayor, Breyer and Ginsburg and STILL they howl "innocent, innocent"!

When they don't have facts, at least they have persistence. One cannot help admire this, I guess.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 29, 2011 9:33:24 AM

Bill - the Supreme Court have not made a formal judgment that Davis is not innocent .... only that the legal process that they insisted upon was carried out to their satisfaction. The fact is that errors of judgment by the legal team wasted the opportunity to fully present the evidence. The District Judge himself acknowledged that at the time, as I recall. Whilst accepting that judgments can only be made on the presented evidence, the fact remains that, at a minimum, there remains great doubt at the safety of the conviction, and therefore the sentence of death is wrong. It also remains the case that vital evidence of innocence has yet to be adequately tested.
In other words, this case follows the all too common practice of
1. setting too high a standard in accepting proof of innocence or doubt of guilt
2. relying on legal practices and doctrines that focus on legal process at the expense of truth.

This remains an horrendous example of miscarriage of justice. The timidity of the Supreme Court in avoiding responsibility to correct this confirms my previous comments of their current standing.

Comments of Amnesty International:
"Doubts about Davis’ guilt, of course, have not been resolved, as most of the witnesses used to convict him continue to maintain that their trial testimony was false and, in many cases, coerced by Savannah police. With such witnesses as virtually the only evidence, the case against Troy Davis was always thin, but, ironically, that has meant that, once convicted, Davis has had little to drawn on to prove his innocence. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases, but, especially in this case, where the evidence available to establish either guilt or innocence is so flimsy, an execution would be a terrible miscarriage of justice."

Posted by: peter | Mar 29, 2011 10:30:44 AM


what else do you want to happen with this case? Every possible avenue has been exhausted. Not one judge has ever questioned Davis' guilt. The Georgia Parole Board either.

Posted by: DaveP | Mar 29, 2011 11:21:10 AM

peter --

I know, I know, and Roger Keith Coleman is still innocent too -- isn't he?

At some point, rational people give it up and move on. As DaveP correctly notes, Troy has had years and years to make his case, and nobody buys it except abolitionist ideologues. All three avenues of relief he sought in the Supreme Court were rejected by all nine Justices. Good grief.

Continuing to push it at this point is indicative of many things, but factual innocence is not among them.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 29, 2011 12:15:43 PM

"nobody buys it except abolitionist ideologues"

One such ideologue [via 2007 NYT article]:

Legal experts, including William S. Sessions, a retired federal judge, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a self-described supporter of the death penalty, have sounded the alarm over Mr. Davis’s case. They say it underscores the many ways the death penalty is unevenly and wrongly applied, particularly in the South, the region with the most death penalty cases.

“It would be intolerable to execute an innocent man,” Mr. Sessions wrote in an op-ed article for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It would be equally intolerable to execute a man without his claims of innocence ever being considered by the courts or by the executive.”


There is no need for hyperbole here even if you think the evidence is not enough to overturn the verdict. The very fact this case was singled out by the Supreme Court over all the others underlines it is not just the work of fanatics, even if the proof is not high enough in many people's minds.

Posted by: Joe | Mar 30, 2011 10:07:05 AM

BTW, every time a justice doesn't provide a dissent from denial doesn't mean s/he agrees with the opinion below. No recorded dissent doesn't mean it was "rejected" by every justice. Often in fact one or more would support it, but since that isn't enough, does nothing.

Posted by: Joe | Mar 30, 2011 10:11:00 AM

yes this case was "singled out" by SCOTUS for a rare hearing in US District Court. Judge Moore saw absolutely nothing to disturb the verdict. Also, SCOTUS distributed the petition on 3/9 for the conference on 3/25. It was Denied 3 days later with no dissent and no relisting. I think that speaks for itself. Davis had his "days in Court" and did not remotely convince anyone of anything.

Posted by: DaveP | Mar 30, 2011 1:42:40 PM

I am tired of hearing about the innocent Troy Davis. 99.99% of inmates on death row say they are innocent. Our justice system needs to stop playing games with these murderers. Everybody wants to be retarded or have some kind of mental problem. All these innocent defenseless people have been murdered by these animals. We need to stop wasting our hard earned money on feeding , housing, and clothing these murderous People. Take the case on John Ferguson Fl death row inmate #015110 these man killed 6 people and left 2 for dead and he is still setting on fl death row since 1978. Now he wants to be retarded. How unfair to those 8 victims. Troy Davis is no different from anyone else. He should be executed to. I really disagree with lethal injection. Bring back the electric chair. Why should a murderer die with dignity. What about there suffering victims. Time out for playing games lets get on with these scheduled executions.

Posted by: miami | Sep 12, 2011 3:10:13 PM

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