[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----GEORGIA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Nov 27 18:26:09 CST 2008
The death penalty----Reasonable doubt
Troubling questions surround a capital case in Georgia
IN 1989 Troy Davis and two friends were hanging out in Savannah, Georgia.
They saw a homeless man leaving a shop and started to bully him. An
off-duty policeman heard the commotion and intervened; he was shot and
killed. Though no gun was found, the state produced nine witnesses who
said that Mr Davis was the culprit. He was convicted of the murder and
sentenced to death in 1991.
It seemed a straightforward case. Americans particularly revile
cop-killers and here was a parade of people saying that Mr Davis had shot
a policeman. But after the trial, no fewer than 7 of the 9 recanted.
Several of them said they had felt subjected to pressure by the police.
Others thought someone else was the killer. The homeless man said he could
not remember, and anyway he had been drinking.
This was hardly the clear-cut result a state wants to have when it is
handing down a death sentence, and legal wrangling has been going on ever
since 1991 in state and circuit courts. Much of the debate is over
procedure: judges who have ruled against Mr Davis's various appeals argue
that you need lots of new evidence to revisit a case, not a gaggle of
The result is a hideous mess. An execution date was set for July 2007. The
day before the sentence was to be carried out, the state issued a stay. In
March 2008 Georgia's Supreme Court ruled that Mr Davis should not get a
new trial and another execution date was set. On September 23rd Mr Davis
was again awaiting death. The prison prepared a last meal of macaroni,
cornbread and salad, but he turned it down. The reprieve came with less
than two hours to go: the United States Supreme Court had granted a stay.
3 weeks later, the court decided not to hear Mr Daviss case. A 3rd
execution date was set for October. 3 days before it arrived, yet another
stay was granted. On December 9th the circuit court will consider whether
Mr Davis can continue with his appeal or whether he has to die.
Even people who support the death penalty are crying foul. William
Sessions, a former head of the FBI, says that because there was no
physical evidence in the case, Mr Davis deserves another day in court. He
may have killed a policeman, but Georgia needs to do more to prove it.
(source: The Economist)
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