27 May 2009

Notable SCOTUS Death Row Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to review the death row case Davis v. Georgia.

Procedural History: This Is The Last Chance

All other appeals have been exhausted, lower courts have been barred from hearing appeals of the death penalty conviction for a 1989 murder, and a stay of execution has expired, but an execution date has not been set. A recent request for clemency from the five member Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles was denied in September, 2008, after a request raising the evidence of recantations in this case, and the Governor in Georgia does not have pardon power. So, if the U.S. Supreme Court doesn't grant this petition, there is a high probability that Davis will be executed.

A bare majority of the conservative United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit denied him relief, saying that a stand alone claim of innocence can never provide a basis for a second federal habeas corpus petition, and a divided Georgia Supreme Court likewise refused to allow an evidentiary hearing to consider new evidence. So, no court has heard the recantation or confession by an alternate suspect evidence.

The Issue: Does Post-Conviction Innocence Evidence Ever Matter?

This is a classic case pitting the finality of a trial court conviction for a crime, which exhaustive appeals for almost two decades have determined were procedurally correct in all material ways according to the trial court record, against new evidence, contradicting evidence offered at trial or not available at trial, strongly suggesting that the defendant was innocent. Specifically:

Davis was sentenced to death after being convicted of the murder of a Savannah, Ga., police officer on August 19, 1989. Since the trial, seven of the nine witnesses who said Davis had done the killing have recanted their trial testimony, saying they were coerced by police or were subjected to questionable interrogation tactics. Davis’ lawyers also said that newly discovered witnesses have said that another man at the scene committed the murder of Officer Mark MacPhail, and that the other man himself had confessed to friends.

In the new petition, Davis’ counsel wrote that “a study of federal habeas case law reveals no case in which seven State witnesses have recanted their testimony, much less a case with seven recantations supplemented by four confessions from the alternative suspect. Moreover, the recantations presented to this Court are to the rare variety: recantations from State witensses who were innocent bystanders.”

Almost all recantation cases over the past ten years that have been summarily rejected without an evidentiary hearing involved recantations from accomplices or a family member” of the accused, the petition said.

The facts described in the petition to the U.S. Supreme Court make clear that this was not a case were the convicted defendant, and the alleged actual killer were co-conspirators arguing over who the triggerman was, as in a typical felony murder case. This is a true actual innocence claim that goes directly to the validity of the conviction of Davis for any crime.

The petition asks for a new evidentiary hearing to review the recantation and confession evidence. American criminal procedure is generally much more amendable to considering flaws in the original trial process than it is to considering new post-conviction evidence of innocence. Conservatives in death penalty state are particularly loathe to open up this avenue of appeal.

The U.S. Supreme Court will now decide if it is willing to craft some narrow exception to the general rule that criminal convictions are final to fit the extraordinary facts of the Davis case.


dudleysharp said...

If you read all the material, you know that Davis’ defense counsel , during the trial, questioned all of the eyewitnesses, very strongly, on the issue of whether they were coerced or intimidated.

All of the eyewitnesses said that there was no coercion or intimidation, of any kind.

At trial, their identifications were solid, without a hint of coercion or intimidation.

Now, years later, folks are alleging police intimidation.

Although, all prior testimony and indications was that there was no intimidation, let’s image, now, that there was police intimidation of eyewitnesses.

Ask: "For what possible reason would the police intimidate eyewitnesses to identify one suspect over the other?" There is no reason, at all.

Secondly, that intimidation does not carry over to the trial.

The eyewitnesses were interviewed, extensively, by the prosecutors prior to the trial and there was no mention of intimidation or coercion, there, either, just as there was a denial of intimidation or coercion by those same witnesses at trial.

One of the things the appellate judges are looking at is that Davis’ attorneys waited, for 5 years, to bring up these “recantations”.

First, that strongly indicates that Davis’ attorneys didn’t give them much credibility, themselves. That is the only reason for the delay.

Secondly, and obviously, we all have to consider that the intimidation and coercion of witnesses can, also, occur, long after a trial and that saving the life of a person on death row, either guilty or innocent, provides motivation to do so.

So, here, there is motivation for the intimidation and coercion of eyewitnesses.

Most, if not all, of the appellate judges in this case, have been around a long time and certainly, they have seen both credible and non credible recantations and forgetfullness by witnesses from trials, that were many years in the past, as in the Davis case.

I think we all know that to be true.

Regarding the physical evidence. Davis was identified as the one with the gun and the two shootings and the bullets were tied to the same gun, and the two shootings were tied to Davis.The gun wasn’t recovered.

Davis was postively identified and convicted in his firt shooting of that night, which he intended to be a murder, fortunatley that vicitm, shot in the head, as well, survivied.

dudleysharp said...

yonsinifTroy Davis: Both sides need to be told
Dudley Sharp, contact info below

Anyone interested in justice will demand a fair, thorough look at both sides of this or any case. Here is the side that the pro Troy Davis faction is, intentionally, not presenting.

(1) Davis v Georgia, Georgia Supreme Court, 3/17/08
Full ruling http://www.gasupreme.us/pdf/s07a1758.pdf
Summary http://www.gasupreme.us/op_summaries/mar_17.pdf

" . . . the majority finds that 'most of the witnesses to the crime who have allegedly recanted have merely stated that they now do not feel able to identify the shooter.' "One of the affidavits 'might actually be read so as to confirm trial testimony that Davis was the shooter.' "

The murder occurred in 1989.

(2) "THE PAROLE BOARD'S CONSIDERATION OF THE TROY ANTHONY DAVIS CASE" , 9/22/08, http://www.pap.state.ga.us/opencms/opencms/

"After an exhaustive review of all available information regarding the Troy Davis case and after considering all possible reasons for granting clemency, the Board has determined that clemency is not warranted."

"The Board has now spent more than a year studying and considering this case. As a part of its proceedings, the Board gave Davis’ attorneys an opportunity to present every witness they desired to support their allegation that there is doubt as to Davis’ guilt. The Board heard each of these witnesses and questioned them closely. In addition, the Board has studied the voluminous trial transcript, the police investigation report and the initial statements of all witnesses. The Board has also had certain physical evidence retested and Davis interviewed."

(3) A detailed review of the extraordinary consideration that Davis was given for all of his claims,
by Chatham County District Attorney Spencer Lawton http://tinyurl.com/46c73l

Troy Davis' claims are undermined, revealing the dishonesty of the Davis advocates . Look, particularly, at pages 4-7, which show the reasoned, thoughtful and generous reviews of Davis' claims, as well a how despicable the one sided cynical pro Troy Davis effort is.

(4) Officer Mark Allen MacPhail: The family of murdered Officer MacPhail fully believes that Troy Davis murdered their loved one and that the evidence is supportive of that opinion. http://www.markallenmacphail.com/

Not simply an emotional and understandable plea for justice, but a detailed factual review of the case.

Dudley Sharp,