Wednesday, August 19, 2009

SCOTUS Grants Troy Davis Evidentiary Hearing

Troy Davis has been granted an evidentiary hearing. Reuters reports from Washington, D.C.:
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday granted an appeal by a man sentenced to death in Georgia for the murder of a policeman, ruling he should get a hearing to assess what he says is new evidence showing his innocence.

The justices transferred the case of Troy Davis to a U.S. District Court in Georgia for a hearing and determination of his claims that new witnesses will clearly establish his innocence. (Reuters)
Only two SCOTUS justices opposed granting Davis a hearing. Can you guess who?
We are relieved that the Supreme Court has ordered a lower court to reconsider the conviction of a Georgia death row inmate who may be innocent. In a shocking dissent, Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dismissed the idea that the courts have a duty to ensure that they are not putting an innocent man to death.

We hope that the Georgia court will see that justice is done. And that the other justices will make clear in future cases that the Constitution prohibits the execution of death row inmates who can produce convincing evidence that they are innocent. (from yesterday's editorial in New York Times)
I'm convinced that Clarence Thomas, who is from the Savannah area, doesn't just love white people but hates black people, loathes himself. How could a black man who claims he understands the law and seeks justice, knowing that the prisons overflow with black men who may be innocent, argue that the courts have no duty to ensure that innocent people aren't being put to death?

Obviously, the color of the person on death row should not matter. If you deserve a new trial, you deserve a new trial. But one must wonder what the hell goes on in Clarence Thomas's mind. Is he so desperate to disclaim his black skin that he would sign a potentially innocent black man's death warrant that easily? As said in the NYT editorial, the idea of coolly putting to death an innocent man while hiding behind a cold misinterpretation of the law is "barbaric."

No, I don't have a comment on Scalia because it's Scalia. Safe to say I'm impressed with neither of the men.

I learned of Davis' good news from the work of a friend, poet and novelist Aberjhani; however, the Troy Davis case is not new to me. Here is YouTube video I posted the first time I wrote about Davis's case.

Despite witnesses recanting their testimony that Davis shot and killed Savannah Police Officer Mark MacPhail, and the support of groups like Amnesty USA, the Innocence Project, and the NAACP, Davis has remained in prison. His repeated requests for a new trial denied. Black bloggers with many others have worked consistently to advance Davis's cause, promoting the I Am Troy and the I Am Troy Davis campaigns, and so with this granting of an evidentiary hearing, a small victory may be celebrated. Per CNN, this ruling from SCOTUS also grants Davis another stay of execution.

Here's a little bit of history on Davis's case as written by Aberjhani at his Examiner site.
Very few court cases in recent U.S history have generated the kind of intensified focus, lingering controversy, and international scrutiny as that of Davis, the 40-year-old African-American man currently sitting on death row at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison for the August 19, 1989 murder of the White American off-duty Savannah police officer, Mark Allen MacPhail. August 19, 2009, will mark the twentieth anniversary of MacPhail’s death and commemorate as well the number of years many people have expressed doubt about Davis’ guilt in the case.

The fact is Davis was indicted for the murder November 15, 1989, by the Superior Court of Chatham County for the murder of Mark MacPhail and convicted and sentenced to death on August 28, 1991. Since then, Davis has filed several for appeals—in 1994, 2001, and 2007–– to stay his execution and request a new trial. Each time, his request has been denied and he has barely avoided execution by a few days or weeks. While the Supreme Court halted Davis’ execution before going on recess for the summer, it delayed until reconvening any decision to hear Davis' appeal and possibly order a new trial.

The primary problem with Davis’ case—outside the fact of MacPhail’s tragic death —is that nothing about it is clear. Out of the nine non-police witnesses whose testimonies helped convict Davis, seven later recanted their testimonies and claimed they were either coerced into submitting false testimonies the first time, or did so without certainty regarding their statements. Moreover, a number of “new witnesses” have come forward to claim they saw another man, an apparent acquaintance of Davis’ known as Sylvester “Red” Coles, commit the murder. (source)
The New York Times editorial quoted earlier is entitled "The Court's Duty" and continues:
The Supreme Court ordered a federal district court to “receive testimony and make findings of fact” about whether the new evidence clearly establishes that Mr. Davis is not guilty. Such a hearing is the best vehicle for getting at the truth — and for possibly rescuing an innocent man. There is no excuse for not having one. (NYT)
Exactly right! No excuse.

I'm sympathetic to the concerns of the MacPhail family. As expected they have been adamantly opposed to a new trial for Troy Davis, but if it were my loved one and this many questions lingered, if so-called eye witnesses recanted, I'd want answers and not just any answers but the truth. I'd want the proven murderer in jail, not the nearest suspect sitting in a cell giving me a false sense of closure.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanx for the 'link-love' in your message. I agree with your closely paragraph about the McPhail family. I want them to find peace as well ... I just want the peace based on truth.

peace, Villager