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September 19, 2011

The latest news (and helpful background) on the Troy Davis case

This lengthy Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, headlined Troy Davis’ life in board’s hands; World watches as group prepares to deliberate Wednesday execution," provides the latest news on what is the most-discussed and most-reviewed death penalty case in recent memory. Here is how the lengthy piece starts:

The condemned in Georgia always have a long and tortuous journey to the execution chamber. But the case of Troy Anthony Davis, whose execution is set for Wednesday, has been perhaps the most extraordinary and controversial legal odyssey in the state’s history.

It also has generated the most worldwide attention of any Georgia case. On Thursday, Davis’ supporters gave the state Board of Pardons and Paroles the names of 663,000 people asking Davis be spared execution. Advocates are using social media to rally support and organize protests around the world.

Davis’ case has taken one unexpected turn after another since he was sentenced to death 20 years ago for the murder of Savannah Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail. On two occasions, the district attorney who put Davis on death row issued final statements believing nothing stood in the way of Davis’ execution, only to see the case reconsidered. On Monday, the parole board is scheduled to meet once again to determine whether Davis should live or die.

Even though Davis, 42, was condemned to die for killing a cop and prosecutors steadfastly stand behind his conviction, his innocence claims have attracted a host of dignitaries. Among them, former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher and former FBI Director William Sessions say Davis should be granted clemency.

“This case is extraordinary because there have been substantial questions of his innocence for almost a decade,” said death-penalty lawyer Stephen Bright, a professor at Yale Law School. “It has attracted attention from all around the world, and the extraordinary number of people supporting him — and the prominence of some of them — is unprecedented.”

This Wednesday marks the fourth time the state has set a date for Davis to be put to death by lethal injection. In July 2007, the state parole board granted Davis a stay after he’d said final goodbyes to visitors. A year later, the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in less than two hours before he was to be placed on the gurney. Seven months after that, the federal appeals court halted another planned execution, leading to an almost-unprecedented U.S. Supreme Court order that granted Davis a new hearing that ultimately proved unsuccessful.

Anneliese MacPhail, the mother of the slain officer, said she is cautiously optimistic the execution will be carried out this week. “I want to get it over with,” she said. “I want to have some peace.” After Davis’ new execution date was set, it appeared there was nowhere for him to turn because his appeals are exhausted. But the parole board quickly agreed to again consider Davis’ request for clemency. It set a hearing for Monday and did not say when it will issue its decision.

The parole board denied clemency to Davis three years ago, but the five-member board has three new members. The board is expected to hear from witnesses who did not testify in its prior hearings. This includes a woman who has signed an affidavit saying she heard Sylvester “Redd” Coles, who was at the crime scene, say he was the real killer. Davis’ lawyers are also expected to submit sworn statements from at least three jurors who sentenced Davis to death, but who are now asking that Davis be spared execution.

The AJC article provides a lot more background on Davis's conviction and the controversies surrounding it.  In addition, these prior posts from this blog on the Davis case (for which I have added the dates of the post) highlight just some of the more recent legal wranglings:

September 19, 2011 at 09:43 AM | Permalink


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Found the designation of Stephen Bright as a professor with Yale Law School interesting. Bright's primary job over the last 30 years is to do anything he can, honest and dishonest, to get capital murderers off death row. He is not listed as faculty by Yale Law School. Why don't the writers of the article correctly designate Bright as a lawyer who represents death row inmates? Should this be an indication that the article is not objective?

Posted by: justice seeker | Sep 19, 2011 10:13:06 AM


Posted by: a nun | Sep 19, 2011 11:34:42 AM

All the doubt in this case is totally unreasonable - and unholy. Anybody who reads the Holy Bible knows the Lord hates doubters. May any doubters be cast out of the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles today and then be sent to hell on Wednesday with Troy Davis.

Posted by: Great God A'mighty | Sep 19, 2011 11:47:32 AM

"Great God A'mighty," maybe you need to spend a little more time in that Bible of yours. A good place to start would be to consider what Jesus did when a woman who was sentenced to be stoned to death was brought to him. I wonder, do you doubt that God's grace is sufficient to forgive a murderer? I wonder, do you doubt that, as Christians, we have an obligation to extend the grace God has extended to us to others? Some people may seem beyond forgiveness and redemption to our human understanding. But, with God's grace and power no one is beyond forgiveness and redemption. Maybe, just maybe, it is you who are the doubter.

Posted by: mls | Sep 19, 2011 1:06:50 PM

There is no physical evidence in this case originally based on nine witness statements. Seven of the nine witnesses have long-since recanted. Meanwhile, TEN witnesses have long-since fingered the actual killer. The actual killer, by the way, is one of the witnesses against Davis who didn't recant. The actual killer, it is also now clear, threatened the other eight original witnesses to finger Davis and not him. Those threats, plus a rush to judgment and additional pressure from police and prosecutors, were what resulted in this mistake.

Those are the facts. They have been known for quite some time and explain why President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher and former FBI Director William Sessions say Davis should be granted clemency.

This isn't a "close call." Even if the prosecutors now finally do what they must, now that their incredible lack of integrity has been exposed, what a huge waste of resources and energy they have caused. More troubling, they have exhibited a willingness - even a determination - to execute an innocent man and let an actual killer go free. William Sessions understands that what is really happening here is destruction of the moral authority of prosecutors and law enforcement in general.

At a minimum, vacating this case should be accompanied by Georgia Bar disciplinary proceedings for the prosecutors in question. When prosecutors are willing to engage in such behavior, the legal community as a whole need to make it clear that they have blatantly violated their duty to uphold justice - and in fact knowingly tried to accomplish the reverse - and will be held accountable.

Posted by: James | Sep 19, 2011 4:19:14 PM


The only booking that should be done should be by the Holy California Prosecutors - especially when they place their tremblin' hands on the Good Book to proclaim before God their intent to lock up and execute evildoers with the help of the Lord.

Posted by: Great God A'Mighty | Sep 19, 2011 5:08:51 PM

J.S.: For many years, Stephen Bright has taught a seminar at Yale Law School on capital punishment. He has a sort of adjunct status, as do many specialists who teach such seminars. He is a member, but not a regular member, of the faculty. His title is not "professor" but rather "Visiting Lecturer."

Posted by: Peter G | Sep 19, 2011 8:45:57 PM

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