We cant let them execute Troy Davis

By: Julien Ball

"[T]o execute Davis, in the face of a significant amount of proffered evidence that may establish his actual innocence, is unconscionable and unconstitutional."
-- Dissenting Judge Rosemary Barkett

Troy Anthony Davis has once again been denied the opportunity to present new evidence of his innocence to a jury.

On April 16, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to deny Troy's appeal for a new trial.

Troy was convicted in the 1989 shooting of white police officer Mark MacPhail, almost entirely on the basis of eyewitness testimony. Seven of the nine witnesses in the case have since recanted their testimony, and three people not heard from at trial have come forward to say that Sylvester "Red" Coles--one of the two remaining witnesses who implicates Troy--is the actual killer.

Yet in the majority opinion, Judges Joel Dubina and Stanley Marcus wrote, "Davis has not presented us with a showing of innocence so compelling that we would be obligated to act today."

One can only wonder what evidence would make them feel obligated to act. Judge Rosemary Barkett, in a dissenting opinion, had strong words to that effect, writing that "to execute Davis, in the face of a significant amount of proffered evidence that may establish his actual innocence, is unconscionable and unconstitutional."

Because of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, a law that former President Bill Clinton signed in 1996 which imposes time limits on federal death penalty appeals, Troy has not been able to present evidence of the recantations on the federal level.

Despite his strong claim of innocence, Troy is still fighting for his life. Only an international protest campaign--led by Troy's sister Martina Correia, together with groups like Amnesty International, the NAACP and the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, and drawing support from an array of international figures like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former President Jimmy Carter, former FBI Director William Sessions and actress Susan Sarandon--has staved off three execution dates.

Now, Troy has until May 16 to file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. If he is denied, Larry Chisolm, the first African American district attorney of Chatham County, or Thurbert Baker, Georgia's Attorney General, could try to seek a death warrant.

Activists are waging a campaign to call on Chisolm not to seek a death warrant, and to reopen the case instead. Calls are also going to the Obama administration and Attorney General Eric Holder to examine the case, and Amnesty International has an online petition calling on Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to intervene. For more information, visit troyanthonydavis.org.

Here, the New Abolitionist talks to Martina Correia about the fight to save her brother.


Can you talk about why the appeals court turned down Troy?

Those two judges are saying that recantations are not as strong as trial testimony. They never addressed the merits of the nine recantations. They say the witnesses are incredible because of their past criminal history.

But they have never been heard in a court of law to validate their testimony. They were heard in the parole board, which is not a judicial body, and where witnesses are not sworn in.

The court spent 30 to 40 minutes arguing procedure. To me, it's a slap in the face because they didn't address the case on its merits. It was really amazing to me. All but one of the judges who ruled against Troy were white males. Their demeanor was "how dare you ask us to overturn the conviction of a cop killer."

My brother's life was of no importance to them. And these justices are appointed for life.

One of the issues Troy was asked to prove is whether he acted with due diligence in his appeals. One of the things the judges said was that he should have brought up the evidence of innocence earlier. And his lawyers said, "We tried, and you wouldn't allow it."

What's next for Troy in the courts?

We're going to file a writ to the U.S. Supreme Court around the issue of actual innocence. When four out of ten justices who have reviewed the case say that what is being done to Troy is unconscionable and unconstitutional; when justices in one county can say they can give you a new trial, but a judge in another county can say, "No, we won't," the Court needs to set a precedent on what's happening here.

Troy had seven out of nine witnesses recant. In the next county over, a judge ordered a new trial in another case when one of nine witnesses recanted. So it's up to the county judge to decide who gets justice and who doesn't.

How is Troy doing? How are you and your family?

Troy is very disappointed. The lawyers told Troy that this was a steep, uphill battle. We always understood that.

Troy is still worried about the toll this is taking on his family. We believe so strongly in his innocence that we'll keep exposing this system. I'm worried that I need to rest sometimes. I only have so much energy, but I try to do as much as I can. But a lot of times people will walk up to me and say, "We support your brother" or "Don't stop fighting for your brother," and that will help.

Troy always says that this is about a system, and that this case is going to destroy the death penalty system.

My mother is aging. Her health is not 100 percent, and my health is surely not 100 percent, since I'm still battling cancer. My son is worried all the time. We don't go on vacations or really celebrate holidays because Troy is a central part of our family, and he does not deserve to be on death row.

You often say that the campaign to save Troy is not just about Troy.

This is about a system, seen and unseen, that uses terror and the death penalty as torture in the name of justice. It is selective in its attack on the poor, people of color and others who can't fight against it. This campaign is about man's inhumanity to man and the biggest bully on the planet, the U.S. justice system.

What is being done to build support for Troy, and how can people get involved?

They can go to Troy's Web site at TroyAnthonyDavis.org. They can go to Amnesty International's Web site.

Letters are being drafted for clergy and for scholars. There will be a Global Day of Action for Troy on May 19. We're hoping people will be raising hell all over the country. We're hoping people will write letters to the district attorney of Chatham County about places where DAs are overturning convictions.

He is the first African-American DA in Savannah, who ran on a campaign of fairness, openness and accountability to the community. This man can reinvestigate Troy's case at any time. So many other DAs are finding cases of innocence and doing the right thing, but in a city where there is so much white and black, he may be afraid to step out for justice, and might treat Troy's case like others have, protecting their political careers. Our message is that people support you for doing the right thing.

The DA knows the justice system works one way for whites and one way for Blacks. Yet he supports the death penalty when he knows it's racially biased. We don't want to ostracize the D.A., but we want him to know that he is not off the hook.

We are working with Amnesty International USA and worldwide, the state and national NAACP, and hopefully even Eric Holder, who sees the flaws in the appellate system. We should understand that innocence ALWAYS matters!