Archive for the 'Troy Davis' Category

ACTION ALERT: Supreme Court rejects Troy Davis’ appeal; urgent action needed to save Troy’s life

UPDATE: Check below for info on the Oct 23 rally in NYC.

After granting Troy Anthony Davis a stay of execution on September 23 in order to decide whether or not to consider his case, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his appeal last Tuesday. Georgia has scheduled Davis’ execution for 7pm on October 27, 2008 – next Monday, one week from today.

(Click here to skip to ways to take action over the coming week to save Davis’ life.)

I’ve been meaning to blog about this news since hearing it last Tuesday, but I think I’ve been avoiding writing about it until today. Troy Davis’ case has really gotten to me; over the past week it’s been difficult to think, talk, or try to write about his situation with beginning to cry. I know it’s important to stay hopeful and keep fighting, but it’s been difficult to muster much hope. This case has only decreased my already minimal faith in getting any true justice out of the American system. It defies logic that so many judicial bodies, right up through the U.S. Supreme Court, have failed to step in and assert that even just a shadow of a doubt should be enough to prevent an ultimate and immutable sentence of death from being carried out. In this case, with seven out of nine non-police witnesses recanting their testimony, far more than a shadow of doubt has been cast – and yet all of these authorities that have had the opportunity to intercede seem content to let this man die.

In trying to understand what twisted logic or legal technicality the U.S. Supreme Court followed in denying review of Davis’ case, I turned to SCOTUS Blog for further details and analysis. Unfortunately, they reported that “in denying review on Tuesday, the Supreme Court gave no explanation, as is its custom with such denials.” SCOTUS Blog also supplied this rather disturbing information:

In appealing to the Supreme Court, Davis’ lawyers urged the Court to issue a definitive ruling — something it had only assumed previously — that the Eighth Amendment creates a right of an innocent person not to be executed.

In this country that claims such civility and advanced morality, it hasn’t even been officially established that one has the right to not be executed if they are innocent. It boggles the mind.

But despite the daunting odds against Troy Davis, despite how utterly Davis and his supporters have been let down by just about every institution that purports to deliver justice in this nation, we can’t just let ourselves be sickened to the point that we give up hope and thereby give up the fight. Troy Davis is only one person, only one life out of the many lives on the brink on death row, but his life is essential, his life is precious, and his life demands a continued struggle. The disgust and disbelief and frustration that we feel at what’s happened in Davis’ case so far must be channeled intensely over the next week so that we might save his life and pave the way to saving many more lives in the future.


Remember: this isn’t only about saving Troy Davis’ life; this is also about making sure that no one else ever finds themselves in the situation that he’s in. If you have time to take action in any or all of these ways this week, please do.

Cross-posted at Feministe

Update: U.S. Supreme Court stays the execution of Troy Anthony Davis

After scanning the news over and over again all day hoping for good news but fearing it wouldn’t come, late this afternoon I was relieved to read that the U.S. Supreme Court had granted Troy Anthony Davis a stay of execution. The stay came only hours before he was scheduled to be killed by the state of Georgia.

However, it’s not time to rejoice just yet. This is only a temporary stay until Monday, when the Court will decide whether to hear the case. If they decide not to – as they usually have in cases like these – then the stay is immediately terminated, meaning that Davis could be executed as early as next week.

I don’t know what action can be taken to try to convince the Supreme Court to do what is rational and right and at least agree to hear the case and the new evidence that casts more than a shadow of a doubt on Davis’ conviction, but if Amnesty International or Davis’ family and supporters put out any calls to action, I’ll be sure to post them here.

ACTION ALERT: Amnesty International’s call to support Troy Davis

As I wrote last week, Troy Davis was denied clemency last week by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole and is scheduled to be executed on September 23, next Tuesday, despite the tremendous amount of doubt that surrounds his conviction. Besides the Board of Pardons and Parole, the only entity that can stop the execution is the US Supreme Court. However, Amnesty International sent out an action alert today that states that the Board of Pardons and Parole can still reconsider its decision:

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles gave no reason for its denial of Troy Davis’ clemency petition, yet Board members do have the authority to reconsider their decision. On July 16, 2007, the Board did stay Troy Davis’ execution, stating that it would “not allow an execution to proceed in this State unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused” (emphasis added).

The failure of courts to hear the compelling evidence of innocence in this case means that massive doubts about Troy Davis’ guilt will remain unresolved.

Amnesty International is asking that people send emails and letters to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole urging that they reconsider their decision in the face of the considerable doubt cast upon Troy Davis’ guilt. Please take a few moments to do this; this may be one of the last chances that Troy Davis has to escape being murdered unjustly by the state.

Update: Troy Davis denied clemency, faces execution on Sept 23

UPDATE: I am shocked, angered, disgusted and saddened to say that the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole has denied Troy Davis clemency or commutation of his death sentence. (see here and here for articles). This, despite the fact that there was no physical evidence implicating him and seven of the nine witnesses who testified against him have recanted their testimony. This is horrifying. It is also crystal clear evidence for why the death penalty is an immoral and inhumane system that shouldn’t be allowed to continue. How could anyone argue that an ultimate, immutable punishment should ever be applied when you have such an abundance of reasonable doubt and such a dearth of credible evidence? And while this is an extraordinarily wrong case, we have to assume that there are many, many other instances of people being convicted, sentenced, and executed under similarly dubious, uncertain circumstances. It is unacceptable.

At this point, Davis’ only hope is that the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes. With our current Supreme Court, I worry for the chances of that happening; to make matters worse, the Court is currently recessed and may not even get around to hearing the case before Davis’ execution date, which is set for September 23 at 7pm. (end update)

Last July, I wrote asking people to call and demand clemency for Troy Davis, a man sentenced to death in Georgia. He was convicted in 1991 of murdering an off-duty police officer, but as I wrote last year, “the case against him was comprised entirely of witness testimony, which even at the time of the trial contained inconsistencies. Since the trial, seven out of nine of the non-police prosecution witnesses have recanted their testimony.” (See my previous post for more details on the case.)

Davis was granted a stay of execution last July less than 24 hours before he was to be killed. However, as reports, “the Georgia Supreme Court and US Supreme Court have refused to hear new evidence in the case — ensuring that doubts about his guilt will always remain.” put out this call to action via email today:

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles is meeting today to decide Troy Davis’ fate. Can you call them right now and ask them to spare his life? Call (404) 651-6599 and tell them you are for clemency or commutation for Troy Davis because you don’t want Georgia to make the mistake of executing an innocent man.

Once you’ve called, please let us know by sending an email to Then, please pass this on to your friends and family–Troy Davis needs all the help he can get.

I made my call a little while ago; it takes only one or two minutes to tell them that you’re calling to ask for clemency or commutation of Davis’ sentence. Please try to spare a few minutes today to help save Davis from an unjust, inhumane death.

ACTION ALERT: Call for last-minute clemency for a Georgia man unjustly sentenced to death

Somehow, I managed to miss Troy Davis’ story until this morning, when I was listening to today’s podcast of Democracy Now. I’m a steadfast opponent of the death penalty in any case. But Davis’ story is one of the most enraging and saddening examples of how deeply flawed the judicial system can be.

Troy Davis is on death row in Georgia, where he was convicted in 1991 for the murder of a Savannah police officer. His execution is scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday) night at 7pm, despite an abundance of evidence of his innocence. The case against him was comprised entirely of witness testimony, which even at the time of the trial contained inconsistencies. Since the trial, seven out of nine of the non-police prosecution witnesses have recanted their testimony. Some of the witness have even stated that they were coerced into giving testimony against Davis. Jared Feuer, Southern Regional Directory of Amnesty International, said this in his interview on Democracy Now!:

You know, what we have to talk about when we discuss the witnesses is that in some cases they were sixteen years old. They had a number of children. Some of them did have prior records. And they were told that if you do not tell us what we want to hear, you will be going away to jail, or we will actually be fingering you. And the witnesses were scared out of their minds. I mean, they had a number of police who would, you know, arrive at their house and tell them, “You sign this, or you’re going to go to jail.” One of the witnesses was given a signed statement, and he can’t even read.

Only two of the non-police witnesses have not recanted: a witness who said they could not identify the shooter, only the clothing they wore; and Sylvester Coles, the original suspect in the shooting, whose testimony swung the police’s case against Davis.

So, from the get go, Davis’ situation looked grim. As Feuer says, “there was an officer who was down, and the police really wanted to make sure that they got their suspect.” Such tales are as old as american racism itself: a white person is killed, especially a white cop, and “justice” must be had, even if it comes at the expense of an innocent young Black man. Amy Goodman gives this related statistic from the American Bar Association: “Among all homicides with known suspects, those suspected of killing whites are 4.56 times as likely to be sentenced to death as those who are suspected of killing blacks.”

Davis wound up being convicted and sentenced to death; the appeals process up to the state level was unsuccessful, at times because of “procedural defaults” that prevented the defense from introducing new witness statements. One of Davis’ final avenues – turning to the federal appeals court – was closed off to him in 1996 with the signing of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. This law, passed by the Republican-controlled Congress and signed by President Clinton not long after the Oklahoma City bombings, severely limits the ability of federal appeals courts to consider cases like these.
Earlier, in 1995, Congress voted to eliminate federal funding for legal organizations which provide legal assistance to death row prisoners, hobbling these organizations to help those inmates with the fewest resources.

Indeed, it looks like the government has been doing more and more to ensure that “justice” be served by executing people as quickly as possible, wrongful convictions be damned. As Feuer put it, “we have a death penalty system in this country that favors expediency over getting it right.” Read that over a few times. Let the awful truth of that sink in. Because this is the ultimate punishment; get something wrong here, and the mistake is irreversible.

Troy Davis’ lawyers appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court in late June to try, one last time, to convince a court to stay the order of execution and reopen the case. The Supreme Court declined. Now, Davis’ only recourse is the Georgia Board of Clemency, which can exonerate him, grant a stay of execution (and possibly a new trial), or allow the execution to take place. Davis’ clemency hearings began at 9am this morning; the clemency board has until 3pm tomorrow (just four hours before the time set for his execution) to make their decision. I encourage everyone to take a few moments to visit the Amnesty International page and send a fax to the clemency board demanding that they make the only right decision — to save an innocent man’s life.

UPDATE: The clemency board granted Troy Davis a 90-day stay of execution, within which the defense will have one last opportunity to present the case for his innocence. While this in itself is an important and heartening victory, the case can still go either way, so I encourage people to continue to send in faxes, make calls, spread the word and take action. And let’s hope that this case can do much to bring attention and an eventual end to the deeply-flawed and inherently unjust system of capital punishment in this country.

(cross-posted at AngryBrownButch)