Justice for Troy Davis

Published on
by
The Nation

Justice for Troy Davis

by
Peter Rothberg

Troy Anthony Davis is currently scheduled to die by lethal injection on July 17. Davis has been on death row in Georgia for more than 15 years for the murder of Police Officer Mark Allen McPhail at a Burger King in Savannah; a murder he maintains he did not commit. The record of his case offers much credence for his contention.

As a comprehensive recent report by Amnesty International shows, no physical evidence against Davis was ever found and the weapon used in the crime was never located. The case against him consisted entirely of witness testimony which contained numerous inconsistencies even at the time of the trial. Since then, all but two of the state's non-police witnesses from the trial have recanted or contradicted their testimony. Many of these witnesses have stated in sworn affidavits that they were pressured or coerced by police into testifying or signing statements against Davis. One of the two witnesses who has not recanted his testimony is Sylvester "Red" Coles - the principle alternative suspect, according to the defense, against whom there is new evidence implicating him as the gunman. Nine individuals have signed affidavits implicating Sylvester Coles.

Moreover, as the Atlanta Constitution-Journal reported this week, "it appears that the quality of legal representation Davis received during his trial was, by his own lawyer's account, seriously deficient. While Davis' case proceeded through the courts, the budget of the Georgia Resource Center, which represented him, was dramatically cut. A lawyer from the Resource Center stated in an affidavit that 'We were simply trying to avert total disaster rather than provide any kind of active or effective representation.'"

If executed, Davis will join 40 other men who have been executed in Georgia since the US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1973. Given significant uncertainty about some of the forty's guilt, experts from Georgia's legal community recently produced a report, sponsored by the American Bar Association, recommending that Georgia impose a moratorium on executions because the state could not ensure fairness and accuracy in every capital case. Among other things, it cited racial disparity in capital sentencing, with those convicted of killing whites 4.5 times more likely to be sentenced to death as those convicted of killing blacks. In this case, the officer killed was white; Davis is black.

Last Monday, lawyers for Davis went before the US Supreme Court in a last-ditch effort to convene a retrial, but the Roberts court denied their plea and upheld Davis' sentence, ending a 12-year attempt to appeal the case and setting the final execution process in motion.

Read more about this travesty of justice, click here to send an urgent message to the Georgia State Board of Pardons & Paroles urging a stay of Davis's execution and and write your local newspaper asking them to report on this case.

Peter Rothberg writes the ActNow column for the The Nation. ActNow aims to put readers in touch with creative ways to register informed dissent. Whether it's a grassroots political campaign, a progressive film festival, an antiwar candidate, a street march, a Congressional bill needing popular support or a global petition, ActNow will highlight the outpouring of cultural, political and anti-corporate activism sweeping the planet.

© 2007 The Nation

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