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Troy Anthony Davis: Unjustly Sentenced to Death

It mocks the notion of innocent unless proved guilty “beyond all reasonable doubt,” a legal principle denied poor people of color in America disgracefully.

By Stephen Lendman/ STAFF WRITER

Capital punishment is barbaric, unjust, and unacceptable for any reason in modern societies. No wonder Amnesty International (AI) calls it “the ultimate denial of human rights. It is premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state. This cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment is done in the name of justice.”


In fact, there’s nothing just about state-sponsored murder, especially against falsely accused victims. In America, they’re mostly poor Black or Latinos denied due process and judicial fairness by a corrupted prosecutorial system rigged to convict even known innocent defendants like Troy Anthony Davis.


Today, America is the only Western country still enforcing capital punishment. Moreover, since 1990, 30 nations abolished it, and among 74 still executing, four are the main abusers – America, China, Vietnam and Iran. It’s long past time for total abolition of what’s no longer tolerable, affecting about 3,400 US death row prisoners, including Davis.


Detailed information about him can be found at:

Timeline of His Case

At about 1:00AM on August 19, 1989, off-duty Savanah, GA policeman Mark MacPhail had a second job working security for Burger King when a parking lot disturbance began. Investigating, he was shot and killed, leaving a wife, 18-month old daughter and seven-week old son.

On August 23, 1989, Davis was arrested.

On November 15, 1989, a grand jury indicted him for murder despite no clear evidence linking him to the crime, including no murder weapon.

On August 28, 1991, he was convicted.

On August 30, 1991, he was sentenced to death.

On February 25, 1993, the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously affirmed his conviction and sentence.

On December 14, 2001, his attorney filed a habeas corpus writ in federal court.

On May 13, 2004, a Savannah federal court denied habeas relief, saying ‘there is no danger of a miscarriage of justice in declining to hear the claim.”

On September 26, 2006, the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta affirmed the lower court’s decision.

On June 26, 2007, Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu petitioned the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute Davis’ sentence, citing “mounting evidence that (he) may in fact be innocent.”

On June 29, 2007, a Savannah judge set a new execution date from noon July 17 – noon July 24.

On or about July 15, 2007, Pope Benedict, through his envoy, noted evidentiary problems in asking Governor Sonny Perdue to commute his sentence.

On July 16, 2007, the state parole board issued a stay.

On March 17, 2008, the Georgia Supreme Court, voting 4 to 3, upheld his death sentence in rejecting his request for a hearing.

On September 12, 2008, the state parole board denied clemency.

On September 19, 2008, former President Carter told Georgia’s parole board that refusing clemency “risks taking the life of an innocent man and would be a grave miscarriage of justice.”

On September 23, 2008, within two hours of his scheduled execution, the US Supreme Court granted him a stay.

On October 14, 2008, the High Court declined to hear his case.

On August 17, 2009, it ordered a federal judge to hear evidence in his case.

On June 23, 2010, a hearing in his behalf was held in Savannah federal court.

On August 24, 2010, the court rejected clear exculpating evidence, Judge William T. Moore saying it would be unconstitutional to execute an innocent man, but Davis “is not innocent.”

On January 21, 2011, a US Supreme Court appeal was filed.

On March 28, 2011, the Court, without explanation, denied the appeal, clearing the way for his execution, despite Justices Breyer and Ginsburg citing “a substantial risk of putting an innocent man to death.”

In so doing, the Court abstained on three fundamental issues:

– whether the Constitution prohibits executing an innocent man;

– what standard of proof must federal judges apply in deciding guilt or innocence. Federal judge Moore followed very strict guidelines others would consider unfair; and

America’s bedrock legal principle that guilt must be proved “beyond all reasonable doubt,” even though no constitutional provision affirms it.

Amnesty International (AI) on Davis

In a “Finality over Fairness” commentary, AI said he exhausted all appeals and now faces execution, “even though the case against him has fallen apart.”

On May 3, AI urged one million “Tweets for Troy,” saying:

Georgia hasn’t “yet sought a death warrant for (him), but that is only because they have not yet figured out exactly how to take his life.” Soon, however, he “may be first in line to face execution under a presumably new protocol,” perhaps using pentobarbital to kill him.

As a result, AI wants to “generate 1 million tweets for Troy Davis. Please spread the word and direct people to the petition.”

Access it through the following link:


Earlier on April 18, AI said setting his execution date is “inevitable,” but “execution is NOT,” adding that:

He’s “run out of appeals, (but) not….out of hope, and neither have we.”

In fact, no physical evidence links him to the crime. Moreover, his conviction relies solely on witness testimonies, “most of whom have recanted, and many of whom allege police pressured them into testifying falsely at the trial.”

Nonetheless, courts convicted him anyway, rejected exculpating evidence, proving a corrupted system, including the US Supreme Court, rigged to murder innocent victims like Davis and many others like him.

According to Laura Moye, AI’s International USA Death Penalty Abolition Campaign director:

Troy Davis’ case is emblematic of a broken and unjust death penalty system. His story speaks volumes about a criminal justice system that is riddled with bias and error and is fixated on procedure more than….fairness.”

“The case against Davis has unraveled, yet he still faces execution.” He’s up against “a system that would rather hold onto a decision a jury made twenty years ago than admit that some fundamentally wrong things have happened.”

Moreover, Davis is Black. Officer McPhail was white and a cop. Georgia’s law enforcement establishment wants revenge. As a result, anyone poor and Black or Latino is vulnerable anywhere in America. It’s the cross they bear for their race, ethnicity, and economic status in a nation long known for racism, as virulent now as ever.

Affidavits Recanting Earlier False Testimonies or Statements on Davis

AI published 10 of them, including examples covered below:

Kevin McQueen

“The truth is that Troy never confessed to me or talked to me about the shooting of the police officer. I made up the confession from information I had heard on TV and from other inmates….I need to set the record straight.”

Monty Holmes

“I told them I didn’t know anything about who shot the officer, but they kept questioning me….I was scared (so) I told them what they wanted to hear….I signed a statement saying that Troy told me that he shot the cop.”

Jeffrey Sapp

“I got tired of them harassing me, and they made it clear that the only way they would leave me alone is if I told them what they wanted to hear. I told them that Troy told me he did it, but it wasn’t true. Troy never said that or anything like it.”

Darrell DD Collins

“After a couple of hours of the detectives yelling at me and threatening me, I finally broke down and told them what they wanted to hear….It is time that I told the truth. I am not proud for lying at Troy’s trial, but the police had me so messed up that I felt that’s all I could do or else I would go to jail.”

Michael Cooper

“I have had a chance to review a statement which I supposedly gave to police officers on June 25, 1991. I remember that they asked a lot of questions and typed up a statement which they told me to sign. I did not read the statement before I signed. In fact, I have not seen it before today….What is written in that statement is a lie.”

A Final Comment

A previous article discussed political prisoners in America, accessed through the following link:

Others addressed victims like Davis, convicted for being Black, Latino, poor, defenseless, and vulnerable against a system corrupted to convict. Kevin Cooper is one of many, an earlier article on him accessed through the link below:

On death row in California, he, too, faces execution despite clear evidence proving his innocence. After the US Supreme Court denied his appeal, he may die, even though 11 of 27 US Circuit Court of Appeals justices dissented on a majority May 2009 ruling against him saying:

“The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man.”

Like Davis, his innocence is indisputable, yet both men may die because of prosecutorial and judicial unfairness, trampling on the rights of society’s most vulnerable.

It mocks the notion of innocent unless proved guilty “beyond all reasonable doubt,” a legal principle denied poor people of color in America disgracefully.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR : Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected]. Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening:

Related video:

Troy Davis 2011 — No Man is an Island / By Anthony Lawson

Troy Davis 2011 — No Man is an Island from Anthony Lawson on Vimeo.


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