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Convicted Cop Killer to Get Second Chance at Freedom?

Convicted Cop Killer to Get Second Chance at Freedom?

In this Jan. 16, 1991 file photo, Troy Anthony Davis enters a courtroom for a hearing while on trail for the shooting death of off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail. [AP]

Atlanta Journal Constitution via YellowBrix

June 23, 2010

ATLANTA – Troy Anthony Davis returns today to Savannah, where he was convicted and sentenced to death almost two decades ago for killing an off-duty police officer during a late-night melee.

For more than a decade, Davis has sought to present in open court his claims of innocence, including the testimony of seven key prosecution witnesses who have recanted or contradicted their trial testimony. Today in U.S. District Court in Savannah he will get that chance, thanks to an extraordinary ruling last year by the nation’s highest court.

Before today’s hearing, spectators and members of the news media hoping to get a seat began forming a line outside the federal courthouse before 6 a.m. Davis arrived shortly before 7 a.m., accompanied by an armed escort of Chatham County police officers.

Vigils and rallies were held Tuesday night in Savannah and Atlanta on behalf of Davis and slain Savannah Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail.

Davis’ innocence claims have attracted international attention, including former President Jimmy Carter and Pope Benedict XVI urging that he be spared from execution. In recent years, Davis’ scheduled execution has been halted three times — on one occasion just two hours before he was to be put to death by lethal injection.

Last August, for the first time in nearly half a century, the U.S. Supreme Court took a case filed directly to its docket, instead of hearing an appeal of a lower-court ruling. It accepted Davis’ last-ditch innocence claim after Davis had exhausted all his appeals.

The high court ordered a federal judge to convene a hearing to determine whether Davis’ new claims “clearly establish” his innocence.

“Certainly, Mr. Davis and his attorneys have a very difficult burden ahead of them,” said Howard Bashman, a Philadelphia attorney who operates a Web site devoted entirely to appellate litigation. “They have to show far more than there are serious doubts over the validity of the conviction. They have to show that the new evidence clearly establishes Mr. Davis’ innocence.”

Still to be decided is what standard U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr., who will preside over the hearing, will use to evaluate Davis’ new innocence claims.

Must Davis prove by clear and convincing evidence that he is innocent so the judge is convinced he did not commit the crime, asked Georgia State University law professor Anne Emanuel. Or does Davis have to show that no reasonable person, after looking at the newly discovered evidence, could find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?

“The case does present, in very stark terms, the tension between justice and finality,” Emanuel said.

Until the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in, Davis’ attempts to get his new evidence presented in court had been repeatedly stymied by the federal Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, legislation enacted in 1996 to streamline appeals of capital sentences.

But Davis’ case may now force the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether the Eighth Amendment’s ban against cruel and unusual punishment also bars the execution of an inmate who has been convicted and later proved he is innocent, a claim the high court has never recognized.

Since the 1991 trial, a number of prosecution witnesses who testified they saw Davis shoot and kill MacPhail on Aug. 19, 1989, have backed off that testimony. Others who testified Davis told them he fired the fatal shots also have recanted. Two of those seven prosecution witnesses will not attend Wednesday’s hearing, however, because they are now deceased.

Other witnesses expected to testify Wednesday have come forward since the trial and said that Sylvester “Redd” Coles, another man at the scene that night, admitted to them he was the actual shooter. Coles, who testified at trial and was the first person to implicate Davis to police, has denied being the gunman.

Coles has not recanted his trial testimony. Another witness, Stephen Sanders, saw the shooting when he was parked nearby with his Air Force buddies. Sanders initially told police he could not identify anyone at the scene, only the clothes they were wearing. But at trial two years later Sanders identified Davis as the killer.

Neither Coles nor Sanders is on the witness lists provided by lawyers for Davis and the state attorney general’s office. Davis’ lawyers have identified 14 witnesses they plan to call. The state has said it will call 17 witnesses, many of them officers who investigated the case and members of the prosecution team.

MacPhail, a 27-year-old former Army Ranger and father of two, was gunned down when he ran to a Burger King parking lot after hearing pleas from a homeless man who was being pistol-whipped. MacPhail was shot three times before he could draw his weapon.

When the high court ordered the hearing last August, Justice John Paul Stevens noted that no state or federal court had heard Davis’ new testimony and assessed its reliability. “The substantial risk of putting an innocent man to death clearly provides an adequate justification for holding an evidentiary hearing,” wrote Stevens, who was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, dissented, calling the hearing a “fool’s errand” because Davis’ innocence claim is “a sure loser.”

Moore is not expected to make an immediate ruling. He has said he wants the parties to file legal briefs after the hearing is over. He also told lawyers for both sides that he has already read the trial record and the legal pleadings in the case and expects attorneys to enter his courtroom and “immediately” begin presenting their evidence.

  • Me4_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    yes this is dumb, and justice is blind.! {people/police like tinker} makes things even wrost!!! yes after so long of being on death row, you'd have too wonder, why coles is still alive? but we also must admit, there are men that have gone to their death and was not gulity of crimes that were place upon them! there also are men that have been handed sentances. that have been locked up for years&years, just NOW, to only find that their DNA's was no match to these crimes!!! {more black&mexican than white's BY FAR} this maylay, freeing-up the actual-culprit of that crime IS BAD BAD BAD! document's that were not given light to be presented in these court cases that were held back by the DA's, that would have proved these men never should have been jailed/CRIMIAL! "again yes justice is blind" but what i dont get is {even-a-wrost-crime-by-the-DA's} that held back the clearing information, that would have freed these men in the begining of these mocked-cases! if the law-system's were truly about justice these DA's would be serving that time, that their power of postion's failed, the system on and of! "and just because a navy guy said what he saw?" dont make his words no more greater than any other honest person that would have share overtly what they saw, not what they were sent-to-claim? look at the-news, cop's are shooting people aimlessly, stunning ladies that called them for protection, planting guns on the victoms, lying and being shown-up on the swadd-car-camm's, saleIN drugs from out of the rooms where drug are kept, at the police storage rooms, drugs are sold and transfer within the local-county, and prison systems! and are being used by inmate's that are lock up, that have been lock up for years, and the ONLY way these inmates can get these drugs, cell phones etc. ect. ect., are from officer's that are suppose to be trusted? "you are right crime DO not pay" {but people are people} their POSITION('s) dont make them justified at all! but if this coles guy is gulity it is a bad thing, but what if he is NOT gulity! ...where will the HAND of justice stand, how can it stand? it would be fallen just has it has failed a many times! as a black man, it dumb found's me how young black&spanish men will do mischief, when they know, for the same act or crime that a young white act out, they will RECIEVE a slap on the hand, as they will get help at that juncture, as well a lesser-charge! when the colored of skin-textured 1's will be tag& or bagged, pinned, stamped,labelled, when there is no help for their mischief's that will-lead to larger felonious action's...
    leo c.

  • Car6_max50


    about 4 years ago



  • Garden_max50


    about 4 years ago


    I sincerely hope those witnesses that retracted their testimony Is being truthful because if they are not, they are making a mockery of the justice system, and defiling everything they stand for. And thiat in it self is a true miscarriage of justice; with this kind of truth and honesty who needs integrality?.

  • Garden_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Justice is supposed to be about "innocent until proven guilty." But sometimes Justice is blind and in the case of Davis, if he is innocent then he should go free. But if he is guilty and he is getting away with murder then God help hem because he will pay and I formally believe the ultimate justice is in the after-life.

  • Ycso-patch_max50


    about 4 years ago


    This is another example of how inept our legal system is... after 20 years his guilt or innocence has not been confirmed. IF he is innocent we have waisted 20+ years on the wrong person while the true murderer has been free. However if he is guilt 20+ years have been waisted prolonging his sorry existance. Whomever is the murderer should not be given the priviledge of waking to another day. And gizmo... I pitty you... you speak without understanding, you are the true definition of a fool.

  • Profile1_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Execute cop killers

  • Photo0066_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Gizmo, go to hell.

  • Me1_1014207_max50


    about 4 years ago


    So if there was a mistake made, fix it, but if Coles did do it, why in the HELL is he still wandering around? Does Coles have a rap sheet? Has he progressed in crimes? Why would he tell others he committed the murder? And I cannot believe Air Force man who could not identify at the time of the shooting would later (2yrs to be exact) be able to determine exactly who he saw did it...

    I have NO SYMPATHY for criminals, but mistaken identity is serious. I would not want to be a part of convicting an innocent man because I know after the justice of our Country, we still have to stand Judgment in front of our Maker...

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago


    im voting you for president, washoe.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago


    Please note that in the past 40 years there has be a fundamental shift in this country, victims no longer matter and the perps have become the "new victims".....what use to be called the American Justice System is now called the American Legal System because it is now all about legalities and rarely about justice. That's why convicted dirtbags can sit on death row for decades without their sentence being carried out. Too bad their victims don't get the same luxury. If it were up to me, in capital cases, there would be a sentenciing, a review to insure that everything was done according to current laws, and then the sentence would be carried out. All within a year or less.

  • Family_max50


    about 4 years ago


    You know Gizmo, my husband and his brothers and sisters work their A**es off everyday to keep people like you safe. You thoroughly disgust me.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago


    this is the way it should be. a he beat up a homeless man. life without parole. b a cop was killed during this crime. weather he pulled the trigger or not he was involved. a man is dead. death penalty. i dont wanna see an inocent man die but he was their he is guilty as hell.

  • 1274182_b41001cddcc32bf4c1ba23ae92fcbc5e_max50


    about 4 years ago


    A brand spanking new Iron Maiden. Wouldn't that be the perfect Christmas gift for GIZZmo?

  • Warrior_knight_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Heeyyy, the dumbass who did the pants on the ground bit for American Idol was wearing a pin to free him. Wonder if the liberals are getting involved to "pease the public" kinda like the Jews and Pontius Pilate?? Anything to free a copkiller cuz he didn't mean to.

  • Warrior_knight_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Where in the flip is justice??? Why, what??? Oh, crap, nevermind, justice doesn't exist for LEOs, just for felons and it is SSSOOOO warped.

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