August 24th, 2010
11:43 AM ET

Judge denies Georgia death row inmate's innocence claim

People hold photos of Troy Davis during a 2008 death penalty protest.

A death row prisoner in Georgia has not proved his innocence, a federal court ruled, according to papers released Tuesday.

Troy Davis, 39, was convicted in 1991 of killing Officer Mark MacPhail as MacPhail responded to an altercation in a Burger King parking lot. Seven of the nine witnesses who initially testified that Davis was the killer have recanted. There was no physical evidence presented at his trial, and no weapon was found.
But Davis' petitions for a new trial have been denied.

The Supreme Court granted a stay of execution for him last year, and another federal court later granted him another one, as he fights to overturn his conviction.

Many have asked Georgia to grant Davis a new trial: celebrities like Susan Sarandon, Harry Belafonte and the Indigo Girls; world leaders such as former President Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Pope Benedict XVI; and former and current U.S. lawmakers like Bob Barr, Carolyn Moseley Braun and John Lewis.

Amnesty International had issued a 39-page report questioning his conviction.

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Filed under: Georgia • Justice
soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Charly

    Well, even if he is innocent of this crime, he's probably guilty of something else so might as well keep him locked up

    August 24, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Elizabeth

    Wow. nice reasoning charly. im sure your guilty of something too, should the government execute you?

    August 24, 2010 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dudley Sharp


    Chaos writes:

    "Tell that to the 135 death row inmates exonerated for actual innocence since the death penalty was reinstated."

    You have simply fallen for one of many anti death penalty frauds.

    The 130 (now 139) death row "innocents" scam


    "The Innocent Executed: Deception & Death Penalty Opponents"

    More reality

    "The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents"

    August 24, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick

      1. You seem okay with innocent people being condemned, convicted, or executed. Perhaps just collateral damage from an overall good system?

      2. Not much care for the Blackstone standard?

      3. Realize an innocent person being convicted actually causes harm to many other people (family, friends, etc) than just to the person wrongfully convicted?

      4. Realize there would be no debate if police, prosecution, grand jury, judge, jury actually became 100% certain of guilt based on real and all information and not subjected to outside 'influence' (politics, social pressure, hysteria)

      5. DNA has cleared innocent men wrongfully condemned. That's just DNA. Why were they still convicted? The system IS broken, and again, it doesn't have to be, but people like you are embedded in today's society where it is ok to get caught up in the blood for blood hysteria and presumption of guilt to quickly solve caase, gain some attention or maybe political standing, and move on to the next one.

      September 3, 2010 at 1:33 am | Report abuse |
  4. Dudley Sharp

    Based upon the evidence presented in this last hearing, it was clear the court would rule against Davis. This shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone that knew the facts of the case.

    Anti death penalty folks, were, of course, fed a bunch of nonsense by their leadership and they simply accepted it.

    As I wrote 6/25/10

    Innocence claims will offer no reprieve for Troy Davis

    Based upon the media reports, alone, of the two day hearing of June 2010, just as I suspect Davis' attorneys have known all along, the appellate case cannot prevail in overturning the findings that Troy Davis is guilty of the murder of Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail.

    What happened in the two day hearing was very ordinary, if you are aware of anti death penalty nonsense. (1)

    Sylvester "Redd" Coles' "Confessions"

    The blockbuster witnesses who were going to testify that the "real murderer" Sylvester "Redd" Coles had confessed to them were not allowed to testify, because Davis' attorneys refused to call Coles to testify, thereby rendering these witnesses in possession of hearsay evidence and, therefore, not able to testify.

    Well, Judge Moore did allow, wrongly, one of them, Anthony Hargrove, to testify. The judge "said that unless Coles is called to the stand, he might give (Hargrove's) hearsay testimony "no weight whatsoever."

    Of course, Davis' attorneys didn't call Coles. Davis' attorneys made sure Hargrove's testimony as well as the other "confession" witnesses will have no weight.

    This will become part of the anti death penalty PR machine – the anti death penalty folks will blame the system for not allowing the "truth" to come out, by muzzling these witnesses, even though Davis' attorneys had to do this intentionally, knowing that the witnesses couldn't be heard, because of the hearsay rule.

    The defense couldn't call Coles, because he would have been a strong witness to rebut his alleged confessions, therefore making things worse for Davis. I seems obvious that the defense made a statement as to how fragile and unreliable these "confession" witnesses were that Davis' attorneys refused to call Coles.

    Hargrove being wrongly allowed to testify must have been a surprise.

    "Recantation" Witnesses

    The additional problem for Davis is this: There are solid witnesses against Davis who did not recant.

    The recantation witnesses claims that the police pressured or threatened them into falsely testifying make no sense.

    First, there were enough witnesses against Davis – the state had a solid case – therefore there was no reason to put lying witnesses on the stand. Even if we presume that some were pressured and threatened into false statements, both police and prosecutors knew, before trial, that they need not risk putting any such perjuring witnesses on the stand. They had enough evidence without them.

    Why risk perjured testimony when you don't need it? They wouldn't have.

    Secondly, the non recantation witnesses, the police investigators, and prosecutors have been consistent from the beginning of the case – those witnesses haven't recanted, and police and prosecutors have testified that there were no threats or pressure for false testimony and those consistent, non recanting witnesses gave truthful statements without pressure or threats.

    Thirdly, there is no evidence that the investigating officers or the prosecutors had ever been involved in such illegal activities before and the non recantation witnesses give more weight to the position that police and prosecutors did not pressure or threaten for false testimony and to the proposition that the recantations were the lies.

    Judges are very aware of false testimony and how pressure can be applied to produce it, by community activists, such as anti death penalty folks.

    Judges are aware that pressure is a two sided coin and they must consider both sides of it and how that may effect credibility. In a case such as this, the evidence is such that Davis cannot prevail.

    Credibility – this says it all.

    "(Troy) Davis' legal team also summoned Benjamin Gordon, who testified that he saw Sylvester "Redd" Coles shoot and kill the officer." (2)

    Gordon, who is incarcerated and has at least six prior felony convictions, said he never came forward because he did not trust the police and feared what Coles might do to him or his family in retaliation.

    "Is there any doubt in your mind that Redd Coles fired that shot?" Horton asked. "No, sir," Gordon replied.

    Davis' legal team has long maintained that Coles, who was at the scene and came forward after (Police Officer) MacPhail's slaying and implicated Davis to police, was the actual triggerman. Coles has denied shooting MacPhail.

    Beth Attaway Burton, the state's lead attorney, got Gordon to acknowledge he never said he saw Coles shoot MacPhail in interviews with police "or in sworn statements he gave Davis' legal team in 2003 and 2008."

    "What made you change your story today?" Burton asked.

    "It's the truth," Gordon said. "

    I think the judge will have to weight Gordon's credibility similarly to that of Davis' other supportive witnesses – ZERO.


    Note: We will hear protests that Davis' attorneys tried to subpoena Coles the day before the hearing, but couldn't locate him. The judge didn't buy it saying that there was no excuse based upon them having much time to prepare for the hearing. It's clear they didn't want Coles. When Davis loses this appeal, he will then appeal to a higher court, which will uphold the denial.


    August 24, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
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