The Troy Davis Case: Will America Execute Another Innocent?

The Troy Davis Case: Will America Execute Another Innocent?

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Barring a last minute stay of execution by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles in a last ditch hearing scheduled for September 19, accused Savannah, Ga. cop killer Troy Anthony Davis will be executed.

If the execution goes forth, the question must be asked: did Georgia execute an innocent man?

Dead men literally tell no tales, and the guilt or possible innocence of Davis will go with him to his grave. The possibility of innocence is hardly a stretch. More than a dozen death row inmates have been released in the past two decades as a result of DNA evidence. A legion of other death row inmates have been released because of prosecutorial misconduct that resulted in retrials and acquittals, or pardons after mountainous evidence was presented that cast major doubt on their guilt.

The Davis case is a near textbook example of a death penalty case that reaches nowhere near the oft stated but much abused constitutional high bar of conviction, namely: beyond a reasonable doubt.

The facts in his case are well-known. There was no murder weapon or physical evidence linking Davis to the murder, and a score of witnesses that originally implicated Davis as the shooter recanted their testimony.

The witnesses, as in most cases where defendants are convicted on the basis of eyewitness testimony, later claimed that they lied because they were scared stiff by police coercion, harassment and threats. Others cut deals with police and prosecutors to walk free or to get lighter sentences for their own crimes. And yet others have long and dubious reputations as jailhouse snitches that prosecutor’s parade to the witness stand to finger a defendant, again in exchange for leniency.

The Innocence Project has noted that overzealous and untruthful prosecutors have been know to suppress, fabricate, and destroy evidence, as well as employ lying jailhouse snitches, and untruthful witnesses.

Many of the cases have been riddled with racial bias. The condemned killer was black or Latino and their alleged victim was White. Troy Anthony Davis is black. When defense attorneys appeal these tainted convictions, the courts almost always dismiss their appeals on the grounds that the prosecutor committed “harmless errors” that didn’t affect the outcome of the case. The Texas execution of Ruben Cantu in 1993 for a murder he allegedly committed as a teen was a classic case of how a possibly innocent man can be executed.

Davis has fought hard to prove that he was indeed the victim of a colossal frame-up. The best that he’s been able to do is to push back the date with the executioner. He’s had several stays and even a retrial. But it’s just bought time, precious time.

Davis, if it can be called that, is lucky. His fight and the possibility of his innocence have made him a cause célèbre. All prison reform groups, the NAACP and notables from President Jimmy Carter to Pope Benedict have spoken out against killing Davis. Many other prisoners who do not have the notoriety, press attention and the money, but have demonstrated serious questions, even doubts about their guilt, languish on America’s death rows.

And that’s not likely to change. In 1996, when Congress passed, and President Clinton signed legislation that toughened the death penalty to combat terrorist acts, it reduced appeals and made it harder to get new trials. The year before that Congress slashed millions in funds for post-conviction public interest and legal interest groups to help inmates such as Davis file appeals.

In every doubtful case, prosecutors hotly deny that any of the men executed are innocent. Despite the questionable executions, no prosecutor, nor government official, has ever officially said that an innocent prisoner has been executed. The Chatham County prosecutors and the Georgia state Attorney General that prosecuted and have fought to execute Davis flatly say that Davis is a cop killer who deserves to die.

But despite prosecutors' vehement defense of themselves in these questionable cases some officials and judges have strongly hinted and warned that it is possible for an innocent person to be executed. In 1997, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee praised the system of legal checks and balances in place to insure that the rights of condemned killers are fully protected, but admitted that there was no ironclad guarantee that an innocent person could not be put to death.

That’s little consolation for Davis if indeed the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles turns thumbs down on his appeal for clemency. If Davis keeps his date with the executioner this time, the question will always linger whether he was yet another horrific example of America possibly executing an innocent man.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on KTYM Radio Los Angeles streamed on ktym.com podcast on blogtalkradio.com and internet TV broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com

Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson

 

Comments

 
Anonymous

Posted Sep 9 2011

He's not an "accused cop killer"...he's a convicted cop killer. Convicted, by the way, by a black-majority jury. Kill the SOB.

Anonymous

Posted Sep 9 2011

I cannot help but think that corruption, threats, and bigotry are the reasons that the powers that be refuse to listen to the truth in this case. After all, they would have to admit that they were wrong. They would have to see that "peace" (as in police) officers actually forced "witnesses" into lying. Isn't that against the law? They would have to realize that it has been wrong all along in that Davis has been considered "guilty" until proven "innocent" instead of the other way around. This "justice" system in Georgia is, I'm afraid, anything but just. But there is still time. They can still decide not to kill an innocent man, set him free, and arrest and prosecute the one who has been heard to say he committed the crime. What about the truth do these officials not understand?

And to comment on the previous post, no, the truth is he did not kill the cop. What about the total lack of evidence do you not understand? Did you get that the witnesses the jury based their decision on were FORCED by the police to say he did it, even when he did not? That's anything but legal. Who knows? Maybe the one who wrote this knows who actually did it and wants to save him.

Anonymous

Posted Sep 9 2011

My grandfather was sentenced to death along with three other men in South Carolina. The 14 year old girl who saw the incident was not allowewd to testify. Two men got in an arguement and on estruck the other and he fell hitting his head on a rock. The young girl told the police who hit him but the prosecutor wasn't sure which on eto convit so he charged all three with murder. My grandfather along with two other men had their sentence reduced to life. My gradfather had been save dso he was out in the yard preaching when he was stabbed to death by one of the inmate. Don't ever think a prosecutor won't do anything to win a case . Even sell his soul.

Anonymous

Posted Sep 13 2011

He is a cop killer, quit wasting tax payers money and fry the SOB>

Anonymous

Posted Sep 13 2011

This is a outrage for african americans. I don`t understand why our justice system is killing off our black people. Everyone that is of African descent should be raising their voices loud and clear. Maria Van Diver from Charlotte, NC

Anonymous

Posted Sep 19 2011

Could it be that, proportionately, the MAJORITY OF CRIME is brought by Blacks....... if Troy Davis were White and the same case manifested, would Blacks rally around the case? Nope......

Anonymous

Posted Sep 20 2011

Earl,
You open your article with the words "accused Savannah, Ga. cop killer Troy Anthony Davis". Accused? Accused sir? When a man who is called to report the news, and is obligated to write factual information that is unbiased and accurate begins his article with a false statement, how are we to take any of your words here as genuine and unbiased toward seeking the truth. Mr. Davis is convicted of murder, not accused, and by a jury who did more than find fault with the case after the fact. Recanting is common after sentencing phases and appeals and cries of innocence are also common during and well after a verdict is reached. It is obvious you have an agenda sir, and one that will not be successful even after Mr. Davis is punished for murdering an innocent man, namely Mr. McPhail. It would do you good to look into his innocence and plead justice for him and his family. He is not accused of being dead. He is dead, and soon so shall be his murderer. May God have mercy on his soul.

Anonymous

Posted Sep 20 2011

Learn more and take action to help Troy Davis here: bit.ly/oIzg74

Anonymous

Posted Sep 21 2011

PLEASE DON'T EXECUTE HIM!!!!!!!!! Give him the polygraph he is requesting. What do you have to lose? You could be executing an innocent man!!!!!

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