Troy Anthony Davis

Executed by the State of Georgia 10:00 PM Sept 21, 2011

Rest In Peace

Where is the justice for me?: The case of Troy Davis, facing execution in Georgia

The Legal Process in chronological order.
Facts Sheet  &  Time Line

Details of the Legal Proceeding up October 2007 is available here.


Read Amnesty Extensive Updated Report on Troy's Case 
May 19, 2009


Supreme Court of the United States Blog

Lyle Denniston Reporter

Posted Friday, October 22nd, 2010 12:22 pm



Troy Davis and the appeal puzzle

Troy Anthony Davis, at the center of a well-known Supreme Court case over a claim of innocence and the death penalty, may have another opportunity to appeal to press his claim — but where would he appeal? The issue is far from clear, but may soon have to be resolved.
The Supreme Court has taken a special interest in the case of a Georgia death-row inmate, Troy Anthony Davis, using an unusual source of power to give him a new chance to press his claim that he is innocent, and that someone else killed a Savannah policeman 21 years ago.  But, in the process, the Court appears to have created a puzzle: now that a federal judge has ruled against Davis’s plea of innocence, where does he appeal next?  There appears to be no clear answer.

On Tuesday, the U.S. District Court in Georgia sent a letter to the Supreme Court, delivering a copy of an order District Judge William T. Moore, Jr., had issued on Oct. 8, finding that Davis may only appeal to the Supreme Court — not to the Eleventh Circuit Court — to pursue his case further.  The Tuesday letter is under seal, but Judge Moore’s six-page order can be read here.  In August, Judge Moore, reviewing the case on orders directly from the Supreme Court, had ruled that Davis is not innocent.  (That ruling is discussed in this post.)

Davis was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1989 shooting death of Savannah Officer Mark Allen MacPhail, while the policeman was working a part-time security job outside a fast-food restaurant in the Georgia city.  In recent years, seven of the prosecution’s key witnesses at Davis’s trial had recanted what they said at the trial, and several individuals have suggested that the prosecution’s chief witness actually did the killing.

But, by April of last year, Davis had run out of legal options in the lower courts, when the Eleventh Circuit refused to let him file a new habeas challenge in those courts.  So, Davis’s lawyers turned to the Supreme Court, asking the Justices to issue what is formally called an “original” writ of habeas corpus — that is, one that the Court itself would issue with no involvement by a lower court.   The Court had not done so in nearly 50 years, so it was a long shot.

However, on August 17 of last year, over the dissent of two Justices (and with one Justice not participating), the Court transferred Davis’s petition to Judge Moore’s District Court “for hearing and determination.”  The Court’s order said that the judge was to “receive testimony and make findings of fact as to whether evidence that could not have been obtained at the time of trial clearly establishes” Davis’s innocence.   Judge Moore carried out that order, holding a hearing in June, with new witnesses offered by Davis’s lawyers, and soliciting new briefs on how one might prove innocence.  At the end of the process, the judge on August 24 issued  a 172-page decision concluding that Davis “is not innocent.”

In the course of his ruling, the judge expressed some puzzlement about what kind of authority he was exercising.  He suggested, in a footnote, that since the case had come to him directly from the Supreme Court, he was functioning “as a magistrate for the Supreme Court, which suggests appeal of this order would be directly to the Supreme Court.”  He added, however, that he “has been unable to locate any legal precedent or legislative history on point.”  Even so, he said, he was sending a copy of his decision to the Justices.

Davis’s lawyers soon filed two formal notices of appeal — one to the Eleventh Circuit (found here) and one to the Supreme Court (found here).  The lawyers indicated that they had done so because they doubted that Supreme Court rules or precedent would allow a new appeal to the Justices.  Separately, his attorneys asked Judge Moore to issue a “certificate of appealability” — a necessary document if the appeal were to go to the Eleventh Circuit.  (That document is here.)

In denying that application on Oct. 8, Judge Moore concluded that it would violate federal habeas law for the case to go to the Eleventh Circuit, since that court had previously refused to allow Davis to pursue a new habeas claim.  In fact, the judge said, if the Supreme Court were acting in its appellate capacity when it ordered a new review of Davis’s case, it would not have had the authority to do so because that route was not open to Davis.  Since the Supreme Court was using its original jurisdiction authority, the judge said, the Justices had taken the only option that Davis and his counsel had left to them.

Accepting Davis’s argument that an appeal to the Eleventh Circuit is now open to him, the judge said, “would require this Court to believe that the Supreme Court can implicitly act in a manner expressly forbidden by Congress.  The Court is unprepared to make such a ruling.”  Thus, the judge decided, no appeal remained open to the Eleventh Circuit, and no certificate would be issued to permit such an appeal.   Any new review of Davis’s original habeas case, the judge said, “must be conducted by the Supreme Court.”

At this point, it is unclear just what procedural route Davis’s lawyers would take to get the case back to the Supreme Court.  The options appear to be simply to notify the Court that the judge’s ruling on the habeas petition is now back before the Justices for review on the merits, or to file a certiorari petition asking permission to appeal to the Court, or to file a “jurisdictional statement” suggesting that the case formally is being appealed.

The Court’s rules do not appear to settle that procedural question.  It would be up to the Court, then, to make up its own mind on how — or even whether — to go forward.



11th Circuit Court of Appeals Grants Oral Argument for TROY DAVIS
December 9th in Atlanta, Georgia at 1pm


10 Dec 2008

Troy Davis and the rhetoric of insanity

The Troy Davis case indicates just how subjective the legal system really is. The federal 11thCourt of Appeals deals with cases in Florida, Alabama and Georgia. A panel of three judges selected from this court considered the Davis case yesterday. Rosemary Burkett, a Clinton appointee with both Arab and Hispanic ethnic roots, would like to see a full airing of the facts surrounding the Davis case. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Burkett finds it troubling that 7 of the 9 original witnesses have changed their stories and that one of the 2 witnesses sticking to his story has allegedly admitted to killing Savannah officer Mark Allen MacPhail.

Davis became the prime suspect in the case when Sylvester Coles told the Savannah police department that Troy was the killer. According to media accounts, Judge Burkett is wondering why Coles was never considered as a suspect. It's bad enough that we may be on the verge of killing an innocent man, she told the court during yesterday's hearing, but "it's also possible the real guilty person who shot Officer MacPhail is not being prosecuted."

Why, Barkett asked yesterday, were none of the witnesses in the case shown a photo array including a picture of Coles? "It seems police were so anxious to get somebody that they didn't pursue Coles," Barkett observed.

Judge Stanley Marcus, also a Clinton appointee, was less outspoken than Judge Barkett, but the testimony he was hearing bothered him as well. Since the 1991 trial, 3 witnesses had signed statements saying that Sylvester Coles admitted to the crime over a beer or between tokes.

True, a single witness, Stephen Sanders, is sticking by his story. At the 1991 trial, Sanders said, "You don't forget someone who stands over and shoots someone."

However, as defense attorney Tom Dunn reminded the court yesterday, Sanders originally told police he wouldn't be able to identify the shooter. Memory usually gets fuzzier over time.

According to the Atlanta Progressive News, the hearing revolved around two questions: "First, given the evidence available Tuesday, is it likely a jury would not convict Davis? Second, did Davis exercise due diligence in providing new evidence?"

Susan Boleyn, Senior Assistant Attorney General in the State of Georgia, argued the status quo position. Troy Davis has presented no hard evidence of actual innocence, she told the judges. Davis's claims have been denied relief by the state courts, the 11th Circuit, the U.S. Supreme Court and the state Board of Pardons and Paroles, she reminded the court. At some point you no longer get another bite of the same apple.

But when do you toss the apple core into the trash, and who decides?

Asked why 3 witnesses are primed and willing to testify that Coles privately confessed to murdering officer MacPhail, Boleyn rattled off a few theories. Coles might have been drunk or high on marijuana; or perhaps Coles was trying to impress his listeners with a bold lie.

Boleyn reminded the judges that the reliability of recanting witnesses has traditionally been held in low repute. The fact that a witness admits that they once lied under oath (for whatever the reason) should be enough to undermine their credibility.

Taken together, Boleyn's arguments boil down to this: yall can't prove your man is clean, so we get to kill him.

Boleyn was also critical of defense counsel for not bringing their concerns forward in a more timely manner. This raises an interesting question: what happens when defense attorneys don't file their briefs on time? Should the defendant suffer for the mistakes of the people charged with his defense?

Well, yes, if precedent is anything to go by, he should.

The smooth running of the judicial machinery trumps all other concerns. The law requires finality. You cant have witnesses changing their minds willy nilly, especially in a capital case. Therefore, it is generally agreed that witness testimony should be taken at face value and that once a witness speaks the words are set in stone. Recantations undermine the finality prized by the legal system.

Unless, that is, a case achieves the kind of attention the Troy Davis case is currently receiving. When both sides are free to make their arguments and the media is paying attention (sort of), the immovable object ("we can't execute a man who might be innocent") runs up against the
irresistible force of legal precedent ("a jury found him guilty and a string of courts have backed up their verdict, so hes a dead man").

Generally, a tie goes to the state. Not this time.

Does Susan Boleyn and her buddies at the Georgia Attorney General's Office know for sure that Sylvester Coles is innocent, Troy Davis is guilty, and the 7 recanting witnesses are all lying through their teeth? Of course not. How could they possibly know these things? They don't care because
they don't have to. Accused murderers are run through a complex game of musical chairs and when the music stops and they haven't found a seat, they die. We don't have to know for sure that you're guilty, nor do we have to care. Justice is defined as whatever the legal system decides to do. If a case proceeds through the proper channels justice has been served.

If Susan Boleyn worried too much about these things she wouldn't be able to sleep at night. Cut the poor woman some slack; she's just doing her job. The Senior Assistant's role in the Troy Davis melodrama is to argue for the state of Georgia no matter how nonsensical her arguments may sound to the uninitiated. Hers is not to reason why, nor can she allow her private judgment to intrude into the matter. The decision was made by her bureaucratic superiors and she is paid to spout their arguments in public even when it makes her look like an escapee from a Monty Python sketch.

Generally it doesn't matter because no one from the outside world is paying attention.

If folks had given up on Troy Davis he would be long dead. But because a shining sliver of humanity is paying attention and a handful of reporters are still pressing pen to paper Troy Davis clings to life.

It's got nothing to do with fairness or even common sense; it's all about finality and bureaucratic efficiency.

(source: Friends of Justice)


Georgia Supreme Court 

On November 13, 2007 the Georgia Supreme Court  heard Oral Arguments requesting a new trial for Troy.

The Supreme Court will not decide his guilty or innocence, but will only decide whether there is sufficient new evidence to merit a new trial. This same court has denied his appeal once before. This was partially on technical grounds and as a result of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. This act was to deal with terrorists but also has an impact on Death Row appeals.

Another thing that may affect the out come of this case is a recent Assessment by the American Bar Association of the Death Penalty in Georgia.

Supreme Court Grants Davis Application

Atlanta, August 3, 2007 -- The Georgia Supreme Court today granted Troy Anthony Davis’s application for discretionary appeal from the denial of his extraordinary motion for a new trial. The order was granted 4-to-3 with Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, Presiding Justice Carol Hunstein, Justice Robert Benham and Justice Hugh Thompson for the majority. Dissenting were Justice George Carley, Justice P. Harris Hines and Justice Harold Melton.

Georgia Supreme Court Denies Troy's Appeal for a new Trial, March 17, 2008

See the Timeline of  Injustice

Martina has sent you a RealPlayer video link: This video has been very slow loading recently. be prepared to wait several minutes for the Supreme Court site to respond.

Play davisvstate

This is the video of the Georgia Supreme Court Hearing , the prosecutor is saying ignore the recantations they should not count and that the lawyers took to long to present them. Which is a lie the courts just kept denying us because we did not have the coverage we have now and they are still contemplating denial based on procedural law and not actual innocence so we have lots of work to do until this decision.

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Read the Court's Summary of Facts and Issues


Marc Morial is the president of the National Urban League and past two-term Mayor of New Orleans. He is a Columnist for



UNITED NATIONS - / MaximsNews Network / - 12 October 2007 -- Back in July, not too long after Mychal Bell, a member of the Jena 6, was tried wrongly as an adult for aggravated battery in the alleged attack of a white classmate, there was another case of southern justice gone awry percolating under the radar in Savannah, Ga.

It was that of 39-year-old Troy Anthony Davis, a death row prisoner for the past 15 years, who was convicted of murdering a white police officer -- his case built entirely upon what was most likely coerced eyewitness testimony with no physical or DNA evidence or a murder weapon.

He was just 24 hours away from a lethal injection when the state's Board of Pardons and Paroles granted him a temporary stay in light of seven of nine non-police witnesses recanting their original testimony.

Next month, the state's Supreme Court will decide whether to grant Davis a new trial in light of these new developments. 

Martina Davis-Correia, his sister, and representatives of Amnesty International, recently met with me at the National Urban League's headquarters in New York City.

Her brother's story made me realize just how imperfect our nation's
justice system - at least in the South - is.

Many of the original witnesses were very young and had criminal
histories, Davis-Correia told me. They felt intimidated by local law
enforcement authorities and worried about their own fate. 

One witness, a police snitch, now says law enforcement authorities paid him to lie on several occasions.

Shortly after Davis landed on death row, the Georgia Resource Center - which defended death row inmates - took a huge hit in funding at a crucial time for his case. He had no attorney and couldn't depend on the state to help him out. 

As witnesses began to recant, there was no one to take their new testimony down. 

After all the new information emerged, the courts told Davis there was nothing he could do. 

Evidence of police coercion had not been raised during the original trial so his petition to introduce new evidence was denied by a state court. 

The state Supreme Court and 11th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals concurred with the lower court's decision, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Davis' case. 

How an innocent man could still be executed because of a legal
technicality is beyond my comprehension. 

It defies logic and any conceptof fairness and justice.

The outpouring of support for her brother's cause has given
Davis-Correia and Amnesty International, which is lending legal support, hope that justice will finally be done. 

But Davis' case is yet another reminder of why Americans of all colors must remain vigilant in ensuring the integrity of our justice system. 

We can't take anything for granted obviously.

"Troy's case has really exposed the death penalty in the South: the racism, the recantation, the coercion; the witnesses, how they were treated, no physical evidence, no DNA, no gun," his sister recently told Democracy Now. 

"In November, I'm prayerful that with all the attention
and things going on and the truth, that the courts will come in and do what's right and give Troy a new trial. 

That's all he's ever asked for, for the witnesses to be able to tell the truth without duress."

On his part, Davis seems to be using his ordeal as a wake-up call to help other African-Americans protect themselves from similar plights.

"My situation is a situation that should have never happened. But
together, if we pull together as a people, I'll be coming home. 

And when I come home, we can bring more brothers and sisters out, bring them home, gather them together, and as one people, we can make a change in this wicked world," Davis told Naji Mujahid, a reporter with Free Speech Radio News and D.C. Radio Co-op in a July interview.

Let's just hope the Georgia Supreme Court next month will make the right decision and pave the way to sending him home soon.

By Marc H. Morial
President and CEO
National Urban League




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