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Where is the justice for me?: The case of
Troy Davis, facing execution in Georgia
Process in chronological order.
Facts Sheet &
Details of the Legal
Proceeding up October 2007 is
TROY ANTHONY DAVIS
Amnesty Extensive Updated Report on Troy's Case
May 19, 2009
Supreme Court of the United States Blog
Posted Friday, October 22nd, 2010 12:22
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
13, 2007 the Georgia Supreme Court heard
Oral Arguments requesting a
new trial for Troy.
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
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
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
Georgia Supreme Court
Denies Troy's Appeal for a new Trial, March 17, 2008
See the Timeline of Injustice
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.
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.
was sent from RealPlayer. for
free and download web video directly to your computer.
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
NUL: GEORGIA DEATH ROW
INMATE CASE UNDERSCORES NEED TO REMAIN VIGILANT WHEN IT
COMES TO U.S. JUSTICE SYSTEM: 12/10/2007
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
enforcement authorities and worried about their own fate.
One witness, a police snitch, now
says law enforcement authorities paid him to lie on several
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
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
"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
"My situation is a situation that should have never happened.
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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