Savannah Talks Troy Anthony Davis No. 12: U.S. Supreme Court Denies Appeal

Troy Anthony Davis (photo by AP and Savannah News Press) 

Troy Anthony Davis (photo by AP and Savannah News Press)

Having attempted to obtain his freedom for more than twenty years, Georgia death-row inmate Troy Anthony Davis may have lost his final chance when on March 28, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it would neither review Davis’s requested appeal itself nor order the Federal Appeals Court in Atlanta to do so.

Davis and supporters have been battling for his freedom since he was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1989 murder of off-duty police officer Mark Allen MacPhail in Savannah. He has been scheduled to be put to death three times but each time obtained a stay of execution pending further investigation into his case. Davis had long contended that a review of new evidence would establish his innocence, and when seven out of nine witnesses recanted their testimonies against him, it appeared the legal tide might eventually turn in his favor.

However, although the Supreme Court did order an evidentiary hearing held for Davis last summer, Judge William T. Moore ruled in the hearing that revised statements and the proposed new evidence were not sufficient to confirm Davis’s innocence. He publicly chided Davis’s defense team for their handling of the case even as he himself acknowledged that as yet some doubt did remain regarding the likelihood of Davis’s guilt.

“Passing the Buck”

While Davis’s family and supporters have understandably been fighting for his release, the family members of slain Officer MacPhail have expressed their belief that Davis is guilty and have rallied for his execution.

Upon hearing the news of the Supreme Court’s most recent decision, Davis’s sister Martina Davis-Correia told news reporters, “It’s troubling, it’s upsetting, it’s like everyone wants to pass the buck and no one wants to address the real issue of actual innocence.”

That “passed buck” now sits in the hands of the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, a five-member board known to almost never postpone executions.

At this point, Georgia state officials are basically free to move ahead with Davis’s execution. Ironically enough, earlier in March federal regulators seized the state’s supply of the drug sodium thiopental, which is one of the key drugs used to administer lethal injections. Doubts have been raised about how the state obtained its supply of the drug and consequently all executions in Georgia have been placed on hold.

Despite the current outlook, Davis-Correia, who has been waging her own personal battle against cancer, has vowed on behalf of her brother “to continue to fight.”

This is the twelfth installment of Aberjhani’s Savannah Talks Troy Anthony Davis Series.  For part one, please click here . To make sure you catch future installments, please sign up for a free subscription.

by Aberjhani

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The Case For and Against Death Row Inmate Troy Anthony Davis

Supporters demonstate solidarity with Troy Anthony Davis. (newswire photo)

Supporters demonstate solidarity with Troy Anthony Davis. (newswire photo)

I had been back in the United States for two years when 27-year-old police officer Mark Allen MacPhail was murdered in 1989, and then 20-year-old Troy Anthony Davis was later convicted and sentenced to death for the crime. I have from that time-frame a vague memory of a newspaper headline that screamed in huge bold letters: DEATH PENALTY.

I remember thinking, like the editor I had been in the U.S. Air Force, the size of the font was that usually reserved for declarations of war and other large-scale catastrophes impacting the lives of millions. In this case, it seemed the editor’s or publisher’s choice may have been at least partially motivated by the fact that the slain officer had been white and the man convicted for the murder black. I thought to myself: Wow, that is too tragic and too scary on too many levels.

The headline looked like the pronouncement of something indisputably final and I accepted it as such. Only it turned out to be anything but final. August 18, 2009, will mark the twentieth anniversary of Mark Allen MacPhail’s death and also the second decade that now 40-year-old Troy Anthony Davis has managed to elude capital punishment for it. Davis, who along with thousands of supporters worldwide maintains he is innocent, has filed a number of appeals for a retrial and it is possible the U.S. Supreme Court will grant him one during its next term (have no doubt, many will watching for newly-appointed Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s response to it). Other observers of the case, based on evidence that at best is inconclusive, believe Davis guilty and are calling for his execution.
Now imagine this: even though I stayed for the most part in Savannah after separating from the Air Force, I somehow remained ignorant of Davis’ case after that huge unruly headline up until last year, 2008. That was when once again, with the help of dedicated family and allies, Davis managed to preserve his life. At that point, I was dealing with post traumatic stress issues of my own and would treat the idea of writing about Davis and MacPhail much like an annoying fly that I would swat away, but it then would come back even stronger and swat me right back.

There have been many loud cries of guilt and innocence, and of death and life, in the case of Troy Anthony Davis and Officer Mark Allen MacPhail–but far too few discussions perhaps regarding truth or justice. At this point, I haven’t been granted the kind of useful access to information or individuals that might help establish some much-needed clarity, but my Savannah Talks Troy Anthony Davis series (of which this blog is a part) is a determined step in that direction. My only hope is that for all those concerned-including both families and their supporters involved this case– it’s not too little offered too late.

by Aberjhani

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