On Thursday night, our local Amnesty International group and allies held a vigil for Troy Davis who was scheduled to be executed on Monday, October 27, after the Supreme Court had refused on October 14 to even consider his case and the question of whether it is a constitutional violation to execute a potentially innocent person.
On Friday, we received the welcome news that the 11th Circuit Court has issued a stay while they consider Troy’s case. I find it disturbing, though, that apparently the same question as to whether he can be executed even if there is evidence of his innocence remains.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
The judges called the stay “conditional” and said they want to hear more from Davis’ lawyers and state attorneys.
Davis must clear two difficult legal hurdles to win a new round of appeals.
First, he must show that his lawyers could not have previously found the new evidence supporting his innocence no matter how diligently they looked for it. And he must show that the new testimony, viewed in light of all the evidence, is enough to prove “by clear and convincing evidence that…no reasonable fact finder would have found [him] guilty.”
The 11th Circuit added a twist. It asked the parties to address whether Davis can still be executed if he can establish innocence under the second standard but cannot satisfy his burden under the first, due-diligence question.
Does innocence matter? That seems like it should be an easy to answer question, but apparently not to our courts.
Since Davis’ 1991 trial, seven of nine key prosecution witnesses have backed off their testimony. Others have come forward and implicated another man in the killing of 27-year-old Savannah Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail.
Shouldn’t new evidence be considered? What kind of justice is it to kill an innocent man?
At our vigil, on a world wide national day of action, we collected signatures on petitions to fax to the parole board. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a petition with 140,000 signatures was delivered to the State Board of Pardons and Paroles at a protest in Atlanta on Friday.
We were joined at our vigil by the Total Experience Gospel Choir, whose songs included Amazing Grace and Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand.
We were also joined by the UW’s Amnesty International group. Stefanie Anderson, AI’s state Death Penalty Abolition Coordinator, organized the event, also sponsored by the Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and spoke for AI. AI’s Washington State Area Coordinator, Larry Ebersole, read a poem entitled “Appeal” he wrote for Troy.
Appeal– For Troy Davis on death row, Georgia (USA)what can I saythe manwill be killed, years agothe state, began preparationsnot the first time,knew what to do —took many a lifebefore him,took doctors(until they refused)to measure the dosagefor lethal injection,took Governors,statesmen to explainthe Why,took willing guards(many unwilling)in prisons,to make a captivesuitable for sacrificewhat can I saythat has not been said,argued in stately mannersat rally, legal briefs in courtroomsbefore judges and executionerswhat can I saythe authority of Systemmakes facts into strangers,kills men in warfare and executionstarves families in ghetto libertywhat can I say:this silence is deathand not yet death– Let the man live !– Halt his sacrifice !.(Laurence H. Ebersole, 10/24/08)