Seattle will be holding a vigil for Georgia death row prisoner Troy Davis tomorrow night, Tuesday, May 19, 6–8 pm at Westlake Plaza as part of a Global Day of Action by Amnesty International members and friends throughout the US and around the world. Speakers at Seattle’s vigil include Jeff Ellis from the Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and James Bible of the NAACP.
It’s shocking, when in this country, evidence of innocence can not be heard in a capitol punishment case. Yet, as Amnesty International noted:
Restrictions on Federal appeals have prevented Troy Anthony Davis from having a hearing in federal court on the reliability of the witness testimony used against him, despite the fact that most of the witnesses have since recanted, many alleging they were pressured or coerced by police. Troy Davis remains on Georgia death row, and may be scheduled for execution in the near future.
Troy is currently just past his 30 day stay following an April 16 denial of Troy’s case by the 11th District Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that he will file a last-ditch appeal to the Supreme Court on Tuesday. Amnesty International includes a link to the 11th District ruling online.
One thing that struck me about the ruling was, as commented on by the Atlanta Progressive News, the ruling quoted Democratic Senators’ political posturing as reasoning for why new evidence of innocence should not be considered, including then Senator (now VP) Biden, Senator Feinstein and Senator Kennedy, claiming they don’t want to go against the wishes of Congress:
“The vast majority of us… want to and have been trying for years to change the old system to limit the time in which a petition can be filed and to limit the number of petitions that can be filed. So essentially you get one bite out of the apple,” then-US Sen. Biden (D-DE) said, according to the 1995 Congressional Record.
“The proposal to limit inmates to one bite at the apple is sound in principle,” US Sen. Kennedy had said.
So, because we have Democrats jumping on the “tough on crime” band wagon, passing laws refusing to let proof of innocence be heard, that’s reason enough for the courts to abandon justice as well.
Indeed, it was during a Democratic administration that this damaging legislation was passed and signed into law by then President Clinton.
Enacted in 1996, the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act , among other things, placed limits on the grounds upon which someone on death row could request a new federal hearing.
The AEDPA “tightened these limits by requiring successive petitioners to show both cause — or diligence — as well as a fundamental miscarriage of justice — or actual innocence,” the majority judges noted.
As dissenting Judge Rosemary Barkett points out:
This case highlights the difficulties in navigating AEDPA’s thicket of procedural brambles,” Barkett wrote. “While we must deal with the thorny constitutional and statutory questions before us, we also cannot lose sight of the underlying issue in this case.”
“Simply put, the issue is whether Troy Anthony Davis may be lawfully executed when no court has ever conducted a hearing to assess the reliability of the score of affidavits that, if reliable, would satisfy the threshold showing for a truly persuasive demonstration of actual innocence, thus entitling Davis to habeas relief.”
“To execute Davis, in the face of a significant amount of proffered evidence that may establish his actual innocence, is unconscionable and unconstitutional,” Barkett wrote.
Shouldn’t innocence matter? Especially when the death penalty is involved? Sorry, it’s too late to prove Troy’s innocence because the Federal Judges don’t want to offend Congress? Too late because we have Congress members and Judges who would rather kill an innocent man than not appear “tough on crime” by allowing him a chance to prove his innocence?
Learn more and take part in a vigil in your community or act online at: http://www.amnestyusa.org/troy