Friday, May 18, 2007

Troy Anthony Davis: Innocent on death row?

As the trickle of wrongful convictions around the country becomes a torrent, we are reminded of the case of Troy Anthony Davis, who is nearing the end of his appeals in Georgia.

Amnesty International recently released a quite thorough report on Troy's case. Here's their summary (hat tip, Amnesty blog by way of Tennessee dude)

Troy Anthony Davis has been on death row in Georgia for more than 15 years for the murder of a police officer he maintains he did not commit. Given that all but three of the witnesses who testified against Troy Davis at his trial have since recanted or contradicted their testimony amidst allegations that some of it had been made under police duress, there are serious and as yet unanswered questions surrounding the reliability of his conviction and the state's conduct in obtaining it. As the case currently stands, the government's pursuit of the death penalty contravenes international safeguards which prohibit the execution of anyone whose guilt is not based on "clear and convincing evidence leaving no room for an alternative explanation of the facts".(2)

Amnesty International does not know if Troy Davis is guilty or innocent of the crime for which he is facing execution. As an abolitionist organization, it opposes his death sentence either way. It nevertheless believes that this is one in a long line of cases in the USA that should give even ardent supporters of the death penalty pause for thought. For it provides further evidence of the danger, inherent in the death penalty, of irrevocable error. As the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court wrote in 1993, "It is an unalterable fact that our judicial system, like the human beings who administer it, is fallible."(3) Or as a US federal judge said in 2006, "The assessment of the death penalty, however well designed the system for doing so, remains a human endeavour with a consequent risk of error that may not be remediable."(4)

The case of Troy Davis is a reminder of the legal hurdles that death row inmates must overcome in the USA in order to obtain remedies in the appeal courts. In this regard, Amnesty International fears that Troy Davis' avenues for judicial relief have been all but closed off. In particular, he is caught in a trap set by US Congress a decade ago when it withdrew funding from post-conviction defender organizations in 1995 and passed the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act in 1996.

To read the entire report, click here.


Barbara's Journey Toward Justice said...

Show Recommendation -
NBC Dateline Tuesday May 22 The Ada Hour Injustice of Wrongful Convictions Featuring Dennis Fritz Author of Journey Toward Justice

NBC Dateline will air on Tuesday May 22 The Ada Hour.
The Ada Hour will chronicle the repeated injustice of wrongful convictions.
In addition to John Grisham, District Attorney Bill Peterson, Barry Scheck and Robert Mayer the piece will feature Dennis Fritz the author of Journey Toward Justice.
Please feel free to post your comments about The Ada Hour on my blog Barbara's Journey Toward Justice

Rosemarie said...

God Grant Troy Justice and Freedom!