When innocence doesn’t seem to matter

May 14, 2008

Troy Davis came within hours of being put to death last year before winning a stay of execution. And now he faces the prospect of another execution date after the Georgia Supreme Court in March rejected his most recent appeal for a new trial by a 4-3 vote.

Yet the case against Troy for the 1989 shooting of a Savannah, Ga., police officer is full of holes. Seven of the nine witnesses who testified against him have recanted, with several explaining that police had coerced them into fingering Troy. No murder weapon was ever uncovered, nor was there any material evidence tying Troy to the killing.

Martina Correia is Troy's sister. She has organized tirelessly to spread the truth about her brother's case and to put an end to this injustice. She talked to David Russitano about where Troy's case stands today and the struggle ahead.

WHAT WAS it like when Troy came within hours of execution last year?

IT WAS like having a cancer eating away at your heart.

Troy's first clemency hearing was the longest in Georgia history--more than eight hours. And because of that, we weren't able to see him before he went to the execution holding cell. The clemency hearing was July 16, the day before his scheduled execution. Troy came within 24 hours of execution before he received a 90-day stay, and a second clemency hearing was scheduled to listen to more witnesses.

The worst part was the silence of my then 13-year-old son. All he knows is Uncle Troy. I would much rather die of cancer than watch my brother be murdered for something he did not do.

WHAT DOES the Georgia Supreme Court ruling mean for you and your brother?

TO SAY the least, I am very disappointed in the Georgia Supreme Court. The court ruled against us 4-to-3. The chief justice and former chief justice were among the three who wrote a strong dissenting opinion, saying the court was morally wrong and too rigid, and that it had set a standard no defendant could meet.

Troy Davis
Troy Davis

Troy has seven of the nine people who testified against him recanting their testimony, yet they won't let him have a new trial to present the evidence.

The sad part about the court's ruling is that they aren't even ruling on the merits of the testimony. The court system has separated the issues of procedures and timing technicalities, and the actual evidence, stating that original testimony is more reliable than recanted testimony.

The majority opinion even stated that if the person that witnesses now say committed the murder bragged about the killing, it's simply because guys want "street credibility."

Since the court has denied the right to a new trial, Troy's life may be on the line again very soon if the U. S. Supreme Court doesn't hear his case. Georgia was the first state to resume executions after the Supreme Court ended a national moratorium on the death penalty that lasted more than seven months. It has already set two more execution dates before the first week in June.

WHY IS Troy still on death row if seven of the nine witnesses have recanted?

What you can do

You can send words of encouragement to Troy by writing to: Troy A. Davis 657378, GDCP P.O. Box 3877 G-3-79, Jackson, GA 30233. Then help share his story far and wide.

Find out more about Troy Davis' case and how you can get involved in the campaign to win justice for him at the Troy Anthony Davis Web site. You can send a message in support of Troy to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles from the Amnesty International Web site.

AlterNet writer Liliana Segura wrote about the Georgia Supreme Court decision in "Lethal injustice: No new trial for death row prisoner Troy Davis."

See the Campaign to End the Death Penalty Web site to learn more about the struggle against capital punishment across the country. Look for an interview with Martina in an upcoming issue of the Campaign's newsletter, the New Abolitionist.

IF ANYONE could have met the standards for a new trial, it should be Troy. But the courts have set the bar so high for recanted evidence that no one can possibly meet the standards.

First, the Supreme Court ruled in Herrera v. Collins in 1993 that as long as a defendant had a fair trial, actual innocence doesn't matter. The false testimony doesn't count as a violation of constitutional law. Troy's actual innocence doesn't matter, since he supposedly had a fair trial.

Further, the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act limits the time in which appeals and new testimony can be raised. It's an abomination that in a country so bent on justice it isn't unconstitutional to execute an innocent person.

Since the stay of execution, Troy has gotten 20,000 letters from around the world. The Pope wrote a letter in his defense. And even some of the victim's extended family and friends have written directly to Troy.

Further Reading

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