AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA
June 25, 2007
Supreme Court's Death Penalty Ruling in Troy Davis Case Reveals 'Catastrophic Flaws in the U.S. Death Penalty Machine'
(Washington, D.C.) -- Amnesty International is deeply disappointed with today's Supreme Court ruling that permits the execution of Troy Anthony Davis in Georgia. The organization maintains that evidence in his favor, which has never been heard in a courtroom, is enough to demonstrate that Davis should be granted a new hearing.
"The Supreme Court decision is proof-positive that justice truly is blind -- blind to coerced and recanted testimony, blind to the lack of a murder weapon or physical evidence and blind to the extremely dubious circumstances that led to this man's conviction," said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). "At times there are cases that are emblematic of the dysfunctional application of justice in this country. By refusing to review serious claims of innocence, the Supreme Court has revealed catastrophic flaws in the U.S. death penalty machine."
Troy Anthony Davis, who is African American, was convicted in 1991 of murdering Mark McPhail, a white police officer. Davis' conviction was not based on any physical evidence, and the murder weapon was never found.
The prosecution based its case on the testimony of purported "witnesses," many of whom allege police coercion. Seven of the nine non-police witnesses for the prosecution have recanted their testimony in sworn affidavits. One witness signed a police statement declaring that Davis was the assailant, then later said, "I did not read it because I cannot read." In another case a witness stated that the police "were telling me that I was an accessory to murder and that I would ? go to jail for a long time and I would be lucky if I ever got out, especially because a police officer got killed ... I was only 16 and was so scared of going to jail."
There are also several witnesses who have implicated another man in the murder. According to one woman, "People on the streets were talking about Sylvester Coles being involved with killing the police officer, so one day I asked him ... Sylvester told me that he did shoot the officer."
Despite this, Davis' habeas corpus petition was denied by the state court on a technicality -- evidence of police coercion was "procedurally defaulted," that is, not raised earlier, so the court refused to hear it. The Georgia Supreme Court and 11th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals deferred to the state court and rejected Davis' claims. Today the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his case and Davis is now left without any legal recourse; he could be executed within weeks. It is shocking that in more than 12 years of appeals, no court has agreed to hear evidence of police coercion or consider the recanted testimony.
"It is appalling that so many judges were able to look away from such a grave breach of justice. Evidence of innocence simply hasn't mattered," said Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, director of AIUSA's Program to Abolish the Death Penalty. "This should be viewed as a day of great shame for our nation, one in which the green light was given to execute a citizen who may well be innocent."