Presidential Pardon for Troy Davis?
Georgia Democratic Reps. John Lewis and Hank Johnson visited Friday with death row inmate Troy Anthony Davis at the Georgia Diagnostic & Classifications Prison in Jackson.
Lewis and Johnson, along with NAACP President Ben Jealous, held a press conference in front of the prison after their visit at which time they circulated letters signed by two dozen members of Congress, one for Chisholm County District Attorney Larry Chisolm and the other for U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
In the May 22 letter to Holder, Johnson and Lewis wrote the following:
We urge you to take any action, open any investigation, or simply use the persuasion of your office to ensure that a grave injustice is not done in Georgia. The tragic death of a white Savannah police officer by one of two black men brought the ire and rage of a city that still bore the scars of segregation, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights movement. We write not to excuse the guilty, but to battle the notion that the black man is monolithic or interchangeable in the criminal justice system. There are both good and bad men among us, but the innocent do not bear the burden of the guilty. One man cannot stand in the place of another some generic cry for justice through abbreviated investigation.
Davis was convicted nearly 20 years ago for the 1989 murder of Savannah police officer Mark Allen MacPhail in a Burger King parking lot. Since the trial, seven of nine witnesses used by the prosecution to obtain a conviction have either changed or recanted their testimony in sworn affidavits.
Several witnesses, in their affidavits, have implicated one of the men who has not recanted his testimony as the real killer.
Davis has gone through extensive appeals in an attempt to receive an evidentiary hearing on the new evidence with no luck. In April, a three judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Davis’ latest request.
From the May 14 letter to Chisolm comes this:
Without an evidentiary hearing on the witnesses who have recanted, and on the allegations of police coercion, doubts about Mr. Davis’ guilt will always persist. An evidentiary hearing in a court of law, where all the relevant parties – the witnesses, the law enforcement officials involved – are placed under oath and subjected to questioning and rigorous cross-examination, is the only way to really get at the truth.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Friday that Lewis “has considered asking for a presidential pardon for Davis, but has not yet spoken to President Barack Obama about intervening in the case.”
When he returns to Washington next week, Lewis said he plans to talk to the chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to discuss possible legislation related to Davis’ case.
Lewis and Johnson are jumping in after attorneys for Davis last week filed a writ of habeas corpus with the U.S. Supreme Court. The same day, 27 former judges and prosecutors, including 2008 Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr and former FBI Director William Sessions, filed an amicus brief in support of the writ.