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Was Troy Davis railroaded? Read defense affidavits & decide for yourself
Aug. 20, 2009 — Death row inmate Troy Davis won a new hearing this week in the 1989 murder of Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail. But the case will focus as much, if not moreso, on whether he could have proved his innocence earlier.
Davis’s lawyers have pulled together affidavits over the years from witnesses claiming they lied on the stand or that another man is the real killer. Supporters claim the statements prove Davis was railroaded, while critics say the affidavits have been too thin to persuade judges who heard previous appeals.
The central issue remains: Could Davis’s legal team have presented this evidence during his 1991 trial or the first round of appeals? The U.S. Supreme Court this week ordered a lower court to decide whether evidence “that could not have been obtained at the time of trial clearly establishes petitioner’s innocence.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2003 explored the issue, which is framed by the 1996 federal Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. That law, designed to shorten lengthy appeals in capital cases, says defendants cannot raise issues after their first round of appeals that they could have brought up earlier. As Chris Johnson, New Hampshire’s chief appellate defender, told the AJC at the time:
“The system isn’t, at this point, trying to come to grips with whether he is innocent or not. He might be or he might not be. But that’s not what the system is asking anymore. It’s only asking what did his lawyers file or say many years ago.”
We’re posting the affidavits — 160 pages of them — which you can download here. Read them and make up your own mind.
— Witnesses Anthony Hargrove, Shirley Riley and Darold Taylor said another man, Sylvester “Red” Coles, told them he had shot MacPhail, or that he had shot an officer.
— Joseph Washington said he saw Coles shoot the officer.
— D.D. Collins, Jeffrey Sapp and Monty Holmes said police intimidated them into testifying falsely against Davis. “I told them it was Red and not Troy who was messing with that man, but they didn’t want to hear that,” Collins’s affidavit said. “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.”
— Kevin McQueen, who was locked up with Davis in the Chatham County Jail, said revenge prompted him to make up a story about Davis confessing to the killing.