The Life and (Near) Death of Troy Davis

“Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” —William Blackstone
Back in 1991, Troy Anthony Davis was convicted of murdering Mark MacPhail, an off-duty police officer, outside a Burger King in Savannah, Georgia. He’s been on death row ever since. And while there are thousands of criminals awaiting execution for their crimes (how I feel about that is another column entirely, but suffice it to say that I don’t believe in legislating death), the problem here is that Davis was convicted on the strength of zero physical evidence and the word of nine eyewitnesses, seven of whom have since recanted their testimonies. In fact, two of the “witnesses” have since testified that they never even saw the murder, and three others say the police coerced them to finger Davis. Plus, evidence that pointed to the actual shooter was summarily ignored in favor of Davis’ quick conviction. Whether or not you believe in his innocence, it’s hard to argue that he received a fair trial. (Read the details of the case here.)
Davis has continually maintained his innocence; he has appealed six times, asking that the court grant him a new hearing based on new testimony and affidavits from recanting witnesses. The NAACP launched a campaign last year to help save his life (his execution has been stayed three times), and there has finally been a major breakthrough: Yesterday, a federal judge scheduled an evidentiary hearing for June 30; after 19 years, Davis’ lawyers will finally be able to present evidence of his innocence.

If successful, Davis could join the 130+ death row inmates around the country who have been freed by new hearings since 1973. According to Amnesty International, factors that lead to their wrongful convictions include: “Inadequate legal representation, police and prosecutorial misconduct, perjured testimony and mistaken eyewitness testimony, racial prejudice, jailhouse ‘snitch’ testimony, suppression and misinterpretation of mitigating evidence, and community/political pressure to solve a case.” Davis’ wrongful conviction has been attributed to five of these seven factors.

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What can you do to help Davis? Pray for the brother, then sign the NAACP’s pledge of support to let Davis—and the courts—know that you’re watching.

What can you do to help keep others from being executed? Check out Amnesty International’s list of scheduled executions and read up on the cases and how you can help.

Do you support Troy Davis? Where do you stand on the death penalty? Do tell.


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