Troy Davis Supporters Deliver Letters to Parole Board
(APN) ATLANTA — Supporters of death row inmate Troy Anthony Davis held a press conference Tuesday at the “Sloppy” Floyd Administration Building where the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles is headquartered.
Representatives from Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda (GCPA), the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia (ACLU), the US Human Rights Network, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference delivered over 4,000 letters asking for clemency for Davis to The Board at the conclusion of the press conference.
“We ask with one voice that the Georgia Board see Troy Davis’s case anew,” Larry Cox, Executive Director of AIUSA, told the crowd.
Davis’s mother, Virginia Davis, and sister, Martina Correia, were on hand as well as a police informant who recanted his testimony in the Davis case and a woman who implicated another man for the murder.
“If The Board looks at the case with fresh eyes, its members will see the complete absence of physical evidence and the now recanted testimony that was the basis for Mr. Davis’ conviction,” Cox said.
Davis and his attorneys will appear before The Board on July 16, 2007, one day before his scheduled execution date, in order to present their evidence that could possibly clear Davis of murdering a Savannah, Georgia, police officer in 1989, and to ask for clemency.
“The legal system has really failed Troy here,” Jason Ewart, an attorney for Davis, said. “[We] have gathered evidence that shows he might be innocent and another man might have committed the crime.”
“We ask the parole board to do the right thing and give justice to Troy Davis,” Helen Butler, Executive Director of the GCPA, said.
“If the members look with fresh eyes, they will see the justice denied to Officer [Mark] McPhail’s family who cannot know if the person who took their loved one was held responsible,” Cox said.
Since Davis’s conviction in 1991, seven of nine witnesses have recanted or contradicted their original testimony. Nine witnesses in signed affidavits have implicated Sylvester Coles, one of two witnesses who has not changed or recanted his testimony, as the murderer.
“In the face of such massive uncertainty, the only logical and just option is to grant Troy Davis clemency,” Cox said. “Our intent is not to add to the terrible pain that was so cruelly inflicted upon the McPhail family years ago [but] we cannot ignore one injustice as we highlight another.”
“We are here because the death penalty is a runaway train. It renders a defendant virtually helpless in the face of such machinery as incompetent defense, prosecutorial misconduct, racial and class bias, and mishandled or ignored evidence,” Cox said.
Since 1973, 124 prisoners, including five from Georgia, have been exonerated from death row, many times in a situation when witness testimony was proven unreliable, according to a report on Davis compiled by AIUSA.
“No court has ever been able to sit down and take a look at the [new] evidence,” Ewart said. “The parole board is a fail safe. They really have to understand that this is not the typical case.”
“I would rather suffer a hundred who were guilty to go free by my hand than one who was innocent suffer death by my hand,” the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, co-founder of the SCLC, wrote in a statement read by Butler.
Lowery could not attend the conference in person because of an illness.
“The death penalty in this country will not survive if we start to execute innocent people,” Ewart said.
AIUSA and others believe one or more persons have been wrongfully executed in the United States since the Supreme Court of the US reinstituted the death penalty in 1976.
“Without ever having heard evidence that strongly suggests blame lies with another man, both the state and federal courts have rejected Troy Davis’s appeals on procedural technicalities,” Cox said.
Since January 1977, 40 prisoners have been executed in Georgia. The Board has granted clemency for six people in that same time period.
“The recantations and the new evidence is beyond a reasonable doubt that Troy did not commit this crime,” Ewart said. “We’re hoping the pardons and paroles board plays its role as a fail safe.”
“Now his fate lies in the hands of [The Board],” Cox said. “Amnesty International implores the parole board to prevent a terrible and irreversible miscarriage of justice and to grant clemency.”
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