NAACP, Amnesty Hold Rally for Troy Davis, Death Row Inmate

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(APN) ATLANTA — The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) held a rally Saturday, May 17, 2008, at the State Capitol demanding justice for a Georgia man sitting on death row they say is innocent.

Troy Anthony Davis has been on death row since 1991 after a Savannah jury convicted him of the 1989 murder of police officer, Mark Allen MacPhail.

As previously covered in Atlanta Progressive News, seven of nine witnesses have either changed or recanted their testimony in sworn affidavits, while three new witnesses allege another man confessed to MacPhail’s murder.

“It would be dismissive if we didn’t express regret for the death of this officer,” State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) said Saturday. “But his death becomes more corrupted by sending an innocent man to death row.”

The prosecution never produced a murder weapon or any physical evidence linking Davis to the crime. Several of those who have recanted or changed their story accuse Savannah police of coercion.

“Mr. Davis’s case shows us all that is wrong with the death penalty,” Jared Feuer, Southern Regional Director for AIUSA, said Saturday. “With no murder weapon and no witnesses [remaining], the State continues to refuse to acknowledge its mistake.”

Supporters of Davis argue these new developments should be cause enough to open a new trial and possibly free him from prison altogether.

“We ask Troy Davis have a chance to have evidence reviewed by a court,” Ed DuBose of the NAACP said. “If we give up this fight, we give up the fight in the name of innocence.”

Davis would not be the first to be exonerated from death row. Since 1973, 129 men, many of whom were convicted on faulty eyewitness testimony, have been exonerated.

Daryl Hunt, who spent 19 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, spoke at Saturday’s rally against a backdrop listing the names of those who have been exonerated.

“Today it’s Troy Davis, tomorrow it could be you,” Hunt said. “When a court does not hear the evidence of innocence… that’s the problem.”

The Georgia Supreme Court denied Davis’s extraordinary motion for a new trial in March 2008 and then refused to reconsider their decision a month later, as previously reported in APN.

“I have always believed in the justice system but the Georgia Supreme Court has let me down,” Virginia Davis, Troy’s mother, said Saturday.

Virginia Davis visits her son frequently and his spirits remain high despite these legal obstacles, Ms. Davis said Saturday.

Attorneys for Davis are currently preparing to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of the US, but the chance of the Court hearing the case is very slim, Laura Moye of AIUSA told Atlanta Progressive News.

“All Mr. Davis has ever asked is for a court to review the evidence,” Feuer said Saturday. “This is not a big ask. This is a request for justice and this is a request for the truth.”

If the Court denies the appeal, it will be up to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to make a decision. The Board granted a stay of execution last summer 24 hours before Davis’s previous execution date.

The GBPP had held off on its review of Davis’s case when the Georgia Supreme Court agreed to reconsider. The GBPP is expected to resume its review, should all of Davis’s court appeals be rejected, Wendy Gozan, in Amnesty’s New York office, told APN.

There had also previously been an eight-month moratorium on executions. However, the Supreme Court of the US recently ruled that lethal injection was constitutional.

Now that executions in the United States have resumed, with the first executions having occurred here in Georgia, AIUSA believes an execution date could be set for Davis at anytime.

“We got a system that needs to change and the first change we need to make is to stop killing innocent people,” Hunt said. “If you kill Troy Davis, you can’t come back in 20 years and say you’re sorry.”

AIUSA has so far collected 100,000 letters and signatures from around the world demanding justice for Davis.

“This fight has been a fight that has been uphill… but it’s not a fight that can’t be won,” Martina Davis-Correia, Davis’s sister, said Saturday.

“We are not going to be moved,” she added. “My brother will be free.”

About the author:

Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer for Atlanta Progressive News. He may be reached at jonathan@atlantaprogressivenews.com

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