Jul 23, 2007
On July 16, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles delayed the execution of Troy Davis for 90 days so he could present evidence in a hearing asking to have his death sentence commuted.
Ever since 1989, when Davis was arrested for killing a Savannah, Georgia police officer, he has maintained his innocence. The police found not one piece of material evidence against him. Seven of the nine prosecution witnesses who implicated Davis in the original trial have since recanted their testimony. Most say the police pressured or threatened them with criminal charges if they didn’t testify against Davis. Nine people now say that one of the two witnesses who has not recanted is actually responsible for the murder.
Nonetheless, the appeals courts have refused to grant Davis a new trial. In 1996, in the name of fighting terrorism, Congress had passed and President Clinton signed legislation limiting when in the appeals process a prisoner can introduce new evidence of his innocence. Effectively Davis was told it didn’t matter if he was innocent, it was too late to bring in new evidence – even if he didn’t know about it at the time of his trial. The law virtually guarantees that many will be executed for crimes they did not commit.
Davis today has support from a wide range of organizations and people running from Amnesty International to people in the community to Congressman John Lewis to William Sessions, former head of the FBI.
But even with all this, it’s not sure Davis won’t be executed. He needs more support from all those unwilling to see such a travesty of “justice.” As do the thousands of other prisoners on death row, who have also been denied the right to present new evidence of their innocence.