On August 24, U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr. rejected Troy Davis' claims of innocence, arguing that, although the new evidence presented casts some doubt on Davis's guilt, it mostly lacks "probative value" and is not enough to prove innocence. He called it "largely smoke and mirrors."
Davis's lawyers presented the evidence during a hearing on June 23 and 24 of this year. This federal evidentiary hearing was ordered by the U. S. Supreme Court (the first time the Supreme Court has ordered such a hearing in 50 years) after reviewing affidavits provided by Davis's lawyers that stated that seven of the nine original witnesses against Davis recanted their testimony. As there was no physical evidence connecting Davis to the shooting, the majority of the case against Davis was built around eyewitness testimony, so the recantations were a significant development.
However, Judge Moore said that of the seven witnesses to admit to falsely testifying, only one was completely credible (although not important to the conviction) and two were partially credible (but would "only minimally diminish the state's case"). The other four, he said, would have had no impact on the state's case.
Davis's lawyers had wanted to call several witnesses to the stand who had signed sworn declarations stating that Sylvester "Redd" Coles, who was present at the scene of the crime, admitted to them that he was the true killer. However, Judge Moore refused to allow them to testify, arguing that in order for their testimony to be valid, Davis's lawyers must have first subpoenaed Coles so that he could testify on his own behalf.
Judge Moore did, however, state that executing an innocent person would violate the Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment. He then reiterated that he does not believe that Troy Davis is innocent.
Davis was convicted of shooting an off-duty police officer who tried to intervene in a fight between two men. Davis claims he was just a witness who ran away when he heard shots fired. Coles (armed with a lawyer by his side) almost immediately went to the police station to clear his own name and implicate Davis as the shooter. Although there was no physical evidence, the police arrested Davis for murder.
Due to the lack of evidence and the sheer number of witnesses who have recanted their testimony, Troy Davis's case has garnered international attention. Even the Pope has spoken out in support of Davis.
After 19 years, Davis's case has been heard by every level of the court and he has received a stay of execution three times. In his order, Judge Moore suggested that Davis appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Davis' lawyers are doing everything they can to make sure their client is not executed before he is able to prove his innocence once and for all.
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Posted in Blog, Innocence, US Supreme Court
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