Washington, DC – Today the Constitution Project expressed its grave disappointment in the Georgia Supreme Court’s 4-3 decision to deny Troy Anthony Davis’ appeal for a new trial; Davis has been on Georgia’s death row for more than 16 years after being convicted of the murder of an off-duty police officer. The Georgia Supreme Court stayed his execution in July after a series of questions about Davis’ guilt were raised.
“There are few more serious violent crimes than the murder of a police officer who selflessly risks everything to protect his community,” said William S. Sessions, former federal judge and Director of the FBI, and member of the Constitution Project’s bipartisan Death Penalty Committee. “However, justice can only be done if we are absolutely certain that the right person has been convicted of the crime, and a number of important questions about whether Troy Anthony Davis is actually guilty have been asked – and deserved answers. Today’s decision by the Georgia Supreme Court is a missed opportunity to reaffirm the state’s commitment to honest justice.”
Of the nine witnesses who originally testified against Davis, seven have now recanted or change their testimony. One of the remaining two is now accused by several new witnesses of being the actual shooter. There was no physical evidence linking Davis to the crime, and the murder weapon was never found A lawyer for Davis has acknowledged that, because of severe budget cuts, he did not have resources needed to properly defend his client. Because of state and federal procedural restrictions, no court was able to hear any of the evidence that suggested that may have been about to execute an innocent man. The Georgia Supreme Court finally intervened one day before Davis’ was scheduled to be executed by staying the sentence.
The Constitution Project’s bipartisan Death Penalty Committee, which includes supporters as well as opponents of capital punishment, unanimously concluded in its report, “Mandatory Justice: The Death Penalty Revisited,” that “[s]tate and federal courts should ensure that every capital defendant is provided an adequate mechanism for introducing newly discovered evidence that would otherwise be procedurally barred, where it would more likely than not produce a different outcome at trial, or where it would undermine confidence in the reliability of the sentence.” Judge Sessions urged,” that “[s]tate and federal courts should ensure that every capital defendant is provided an adequate mechanism for introducing newly discovered evidence that would otherwise be procedurally barred, where it would more likely than not produce a different outcome at trial, or where it would undermine confidence in the reliability of the sentence.” Judge Sessions the Board of Pardons and Parole to stay Davis’ execution, arguing that it would be “intolerable to execute a man without his claims of innocence ever being considered by the courts or by the executive.”