Originally published 6.4.11
For the second time since becoming president, Barack Obama on May 20 pardoned eight people convicted of crimes. Georgia death row inmate, Troy Davis, wasnâ€™t on that list and is still facing a possible fourth execution date.
â€œThe warden in the prison doesnâ€™t like my brother and all the notoriety heâ€™s been receiving. They are really trying to execute my brother and do not want him to get a new trial. They know if he gets a new trial, their case will not stand because there is no evidence showing he did the crime,â€ Martina Correia told me in a phone interview.
According to the Georgia Corrections Department, the state recently changed to a different lethal injection drug to put inmates to death. When executions resume, Mr. Davis could be the first to have the new drug run through his veins.
â€œThey want to break Troyâ€™s spirit but he told me heâ€™s constantly praying to Allah and that gives him joy. They restricted him from having phones calls since our motherâ€™s funeral in April and heâ€™s been on strict lockdown since March on a bogus accusation,â€ said Ms. Correia.
U.S. Supreme Justices halted Atlanta’s 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on March 28 from examining the controversial case, in which Mr. Davis was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1989 killing of Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail. That was Mr. Davisâ€™ final appeal.
One of his last chances for freedom rests with the state parole board, which could choose to hear his case and grant clemency.
Over 20 exonerated death row survivors signed an open letter in support of Mr. Davis and sent it to James E. Donald, who chairs the Georgia State Board of Pardons & Paroles.
â€œWe donâ€™t know if Troy Davis is in fact innocent, but, as people who were wrongfully sentenced to death (and in some cases scheduled for execution), we believe it is vitally important that no execution go forward when there are doubts about guilt. It is absolutely essential to ensuring that the innocent are not executed,â€ the letter reads in part.
The exonerees also wrote to Mr. Donald, â€œWhen you issued a temporary stay for Troy Davis in 2007, you stated that the Board “will not allow an execution to proceed in this State unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused.” This standard is a welcome development, and we urge you to apply it again now. Doubts persist in the case of Troy Davis, and commuting his sentence will reassure the people of Georgia that you will never permit an innocent person to be put to death in their name.â€
â€œWeâ€™re going to keep fighting. We have to find new witnesses who are not afraid to come forth and testify. Many are afraid and I donâ€™t know why unless the cops have something on them,â€ said Ms. Correia.
Ms. Correia, along with a host of organizations, including Murder Victims Family Members, the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Amnesty International and the NAACP, are calling on political, religious, and community leaders to cry out like never before in demanding freedom for Mr. Davis, who was convicted and sentenced to death in 1991.
Witnesses claimed Mr. Davis, who was then 19-years-old, and two others were harassing a homeless man in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant when off-duty officer MacPhail arrived to help the man. Witnesses also testified at trial that Mr. Davis then shot the officer twice and fled the scene.
Since Mr. Davis’ conviction, seven of the nine witnesses against him have recanted their testimony and no physical evidence has been presented that links Mr. Davis to the killing.
Since 2007, the state of Georgia has slated Mr. Davis for execution three times only to have the executions delayed.
In August 2009, the Supreme Court ordered the federal court in Savannah to hear Mr. Davis’ innocence claim in an evidentiary hearing. In June of 2010, U.S. District Court Judge William T. Moore Jr. heard two days of testimony and two months later he ruled that Mr. Davis’ defense team failed to present satisfactory proof of innocence.
Mr. Davis’ attorneys argued that Judge Moore was incorrect in his refusal to hear from potential witnesses who could testify that another man confessed to taking the life of Mr. MacPhail. The attorneys filed this latest appeal in January, only to see it rejected.
The clock is ticking and supporters are flooding Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, websites, blogs and events on the grounds on behalf of Mr. Davis.
â€œTroy has lost both of his parents since being on death row and hasnâ€™t been able to say goodbye to either of them. But the more they do to him on the inside of the prison, he says, the more heâ€™s going to keep smiling at them,â€ said Ms. Correia.
To follow updates on this case visit: www.troyanthonydavis.org
Free Troy Davis!
~Brother Jesse Muhammad
(Note: I originally wrote this story for The Final Call Newspaper for the Vol. 30 No. 35 edition dated June 7, 2011)