|Wednesday, 24 September 2008|
| by Black Agenda Report Managing Editor Bruce Dixon|
Yesterday, with less than two hours left till his scheduled execution, The US Supreme Court intervened in the case of Troy Anthony Davis of Savannah GA. Davis was convicted of murder in the killing of a policeman in 1989. Seven of the nine non-police witnesses have recanted their testimony against Troy, all alleging threats and coercion from prosecutors and/or police. The question raised by the campaign to free Troy Davis, which the Supreme Court will decide soon --- does innocence matter?
Supreme Court To Decide Fate of Troy Davis: Does Innocence Matter?
by BAR Managing Editor Bruce Dixon
With hundreds of supporters of Troy Anthony Davis gathering at the state capital building in Atlanta, and multiple suburban locations as well as Savannah and Athens GA and outside the prison where the execution had been scheduled, and less than two hours remaining before the execution, the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday overruled Georgia authorities and granted a stay. The execution will be delayed at least a week, while the Supreme Court decides whether or not to consider his case. Should they decline to do so, Georgia authorities will set a new date for speedy execution, and the death watch will begin again. And of course if the Supreme Court decides to consider the case all bets are off until their deliberations are completed.
Keep up the pressure!
Over the past few weeks there have been several public meetings and demonstrations in Atlanta atended by thousands of people, including a sit-in outside the governor's office demanding a new trial for Davis, convicted in the 1989 slaying of a cop in Savannah.
Last Friday, about a thousand people marched from Atlanta's Woodruff Park to historic Ebeneezer Baptist Church to pray and demand a new trial for Troy Davis.
“Dr. King opposed the death penalty, and it's only appropriate that we meet here at his church to pray for and to demand justice for Troy Davis,” offered Rev. Timothy McDonald of Atlanta's First Iconium Baptist Church. “The seven out of nine witnesses repudiating their own stories, that should have been enough by itself to merit a new trial,” he declared.
The slogan of the demonstrators is “innocence matters”. Black Agenda Report asked Martina Correia, Davis's sister what this meant.
“They're telling us that recanted testimony is not as important as trial testimony. What's happening is that my brother Troy is being denied access to the court. They're saying that if you had a 'fair trial' evidence proving your innocence that comes to light afterward does not matter... That's why our campaign is called 'Innocence Matters.'”
The Atlanta Progressive News reported that seven of the nine non-police witnesses against Davis went before the GA Bureau of Pardons and Paroles to recant their testimony on the basis that they were coached and threatened by police and prosecutors into lying. The Bureau, all former prosecutors and law enforcement personnel, are appointed by the governor, and have the power to set aside death penalties and to order a new trial. But despite seven of nine witnesses alleging threats on the part of police to coerce their testimony, and despite a commitment from the US Supreme Court to rule on whether it will take the case in early October, judges from lower courts up to the GA State Supreme Court have refused to reopen the case. Evidence of innocence that surfaces after a trial, they have effectively ruled, is inadmissible and irrelevant. The parole board ruled likewise, and set the September 23 execution date, which the high court has now delayed.
“We were the only news agency that was talking about the witness recantation” Cardinale pointed out.. “You would just see in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the corporate TV and newspapers that Troy Davis was about to be executed, that he killed a cop, and that was it... particularly the TV stations. They'd run a one minute clip, the same as they do before every execution. But in the media we have a responsibility to treat a claim that comes from the government as a claiM, rather than as an established fact. They did the same thing with Katherine Johnson, the 92 year old woman (shot to death by police in her Atlanta home) who we were told was dealing marijuana out of her house. It turned out of course, that the police were the criminals in that case, but the corporate news media for days uncritically defended them.”
Before the stay of execution, we asked the sister of Troy Anthnoy Davis what else people could do who wanted to see justice in this case. “You can call or fax letters to the governor's offce and the GA Bureau of Pardons and Paroles. You can visit Amnesty International's web site and www.troyanthonydavis.org. You can send a text message “troy” to 90999.”
For his part, it is reported that Troy Anthony Davis was calm and composed in the hours and minutes leading up to his last minute stay of execution. He remains hopeful and optomistic, and grateful for the support he has received from people of conscience in Georgia, acrss the country, and around the world.
And as always, the Atlanta Progressive News remains the best and most reliable source for ongoing breaking news about the case of Troy Anthony Davis, and much more.
BAR Managing Editor Bruce Dixon is based in Atlanta, and can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com