Death row mistake
Published: September 7, 2010
Should we execute a man when the witnesses against him admit they lied?
A federal judge has held that a man on death row in Georgia did not meet the high standard of proving his innocence and will not get a new trial. Instead, Troy Davis will face execution.
Davis was convicted 18 years ago of murdering Mark MacPhail in Savannah, Ga. No murder weapon was ever found. He was convicted solely on witness testimony. Since then, all but two of the witnesses has recanted or contradicted the testimony given. Many of the witnesses state that the police pressured them into testifying or giving statements against Troy Davis. One of the two witnesses who has not recanted his testimony is Sylvester “Red” Coles. There is new evidence implicating Coles as the real murderer of Mark MacPhail, including affidavits from nine individuals that implicate Coles.
This should be more than enough to grant Troy Davis a new trial. Execution is the ultimate power of the state and cannot be legitimately exercised when there is doubt about the guilt of the defendant. Georgia’s failure to provide Troy Davis a new trial in these circumstances is a violation of due process. The government of Georgia owes Troy Davis a new trial. The federal judiciary owes all U.S. citizens a real review of state action for compliance with the federal constitution. The federal review in this case didn’t provide that, in part because the standard for the grant of a new trial is too high.
No execution should go forward when there is so much doubt and uncertainty. Please join Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and Amnesty International USA in demanding justice for Troy Davis and a fair justice system for all.
Cassandra S. Edson