A federal judge on Tuesday emphatically rejected Troy Anthony Davis' claims that he was wrongly convicted of killing a Savannah police officer in 1989.Though I'm no legal expert, I haven't fully wrapped my head around this one. Hearing the news it was like someone had kicked me in the stomach. But I'm pretty sure whatever the feeling, it must be one hundred times worse for the Davis family, their closest friends and supporters.
In a 172-page order, U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr. said Davis failed to prove his innocence during an extraordinary hearing in June ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court. Davis, on death row for 19 years, now has one final appeal before his death sentence can be carried out.
"Ultimately, while Mr. Davis' new evidence casts some additional, minimal doubt on his conviction, it is largely smoke and mirrors," Moore wrote. "The vast majority of the evidence at trial remains largely intac t, and the new evidence is largely not credible or [is] lacking in probative value."
Having reviewed the voluminous court record, Moore concluded, "Mr. Davis vastly overstates the value of his evidence of innocence."
Davis, 41, was convicted of killing off-duty police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail 21 years ago as MacPhail ran to the aid of a homeless man being pistol-whipped outside a Burger King. The case has attracted international attention because a number of key prosecution witnesses either recanted or backed off their trial testimony. Other witnesses have come forward and said another man at the scene told them he was the actual killer.
The Supreme Court's order for a hearing on Davis' innocence claims was the first time in 50 years the high court had issued such a directive. In a footnote in his order, Moore suggested Davis should appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
[...] Danielle Garten, one of Davis' lawyers, said she still believes in Davis' innocence. "We're obviously extremely disappointed with the court's ruling and we strongly disagree with its findings and conclusions," she said.
MacPhail, 27 and a father of two, was gunned down before he could draw his weapon. After the killing, Sylvester "Redd" Coles went to the police with his lawyer and told them he and Davis were at the scene. At trial, he testified he was fleeing the scene when shots were fired, leaving Davis as the culprit. Coles denied being the triggerman.
At the June hearing, Davis' lawyers wanted to call witnesses who had given sworn statements that Coles had told them after the trial he was the actual killer. But Moore did not allow these witnesses to testify because Davis' lawyers did not subpoena Coles to testify. If they had, Moore wrote Tuesday, he could have tested the validity of Coles' alleged confessions.
If Coles had in fact confessed to these witnesses, Moore suggested there could be an explanation --"he believed that his reputation as a dangerous individual would be enhanced if he took credit for murdering Officer MacPhail." Davis failed to prove the alleged confessions were truthful, Moore noted.
Moore answered one question posed to him by the U.S. Supreme Court. He found that executing an innocent person would violate the Eighth Amendment's ban against cruel and unusual punishment.
"However, Mr. Davis is not innocent," Moore wrote.
Of the seven witnesses Davis' legal team say recanted their trial testimony, "only one is a meaningful, credible recantation." The value of this recantation -- given by a jailhouse snitch who testified Davis told him he killed MacPhail -- is diminished because it was already clear the witness testified falsely at trial, the judge said. (source)
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Of course there's going to be an appeal of this decision. But one has to wonder, at this point, will his conviction ever be overturned? Does anybody care? How else can he prove his innocence? I gotta admit, the silence from the people enraged by the Oscar Grant verdict sole'is deafening...