Tuesday, April 21, 2009

We Remain Unpersuaded

Via Philadelphia Freedom Blog, I discovered that the federal appeals court in Atlanta had denied the appeal of Troy Davis. I've written about the case several times before. Unfortunately, the news is not surprising. Even when the court granted the appeal, I noted in Hold On, that "the remaining hurdles that Troy Davis still faces are still overwhelming. Although there is much evidence that brings his conviction into question, even getting approval to hold a hearing where such testimony would be considered is difficult. The legal standard that must be met before a hearing would be permitted is exceedingly stringent."

On the latest decision, the Atlanta Constitution reports, Georgia Death Row Inmate Loses 11th Circuit Appeal:

In a 2-1 opinion, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Davis could not establish by clear and convincing evidence that a jury would not have found him guilty.

Davis’ innocence claims have attracted international attention. They rely largely on the recantations of key prosecution witnesses who testified at trial and on statements by others who say another man told them he was the actual killer.

* * * *

On Thursday, the two-judge majority noted that state courts and the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles had exhaustively reviewed Davis’ claims and rejected them.

Judges Joel Dubina and Stanley Marcus said they agreed with those conclusions. “Davis has not presented us with a showing of innocence so compelling that we would be obligated to act today,” they wrote.

The judges said they view the recantations with skepticism and, after reviewing Davis’ claims, “remain unpersuaded.”

Although the article suggests that Davis' claims of innocence were reviewed in detail and found to be insufficient, the reality is that his appeal merely focused on granting him the right to assert his claims before a federal court. As explained by the ACLU's blog, Troy Davis Suffers Another Blow:
Late last week, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Troy Davis’s petition for a hearing to prove his innocence. Although seven of the nine non-police witnesses against him have recanted or contradicted their trial testimony, that evidence will not be heard unless the United States Supreme Court decides differently. Troy Davis still has a 30-day stay of execution to file a petition with the Supreme Court.

The 11th Circuit refused to hear Davis’ claims of innocence by a 2-1 vote. The decision was largely based on the onerous procedural obstacles that a death row inmate must overcome before a federal court will consider the merits of his or her constitutional claims – in Troy’s case, his claim that the execution of an innocent person violates the cruel or unusual punishment clause of the U.S. Constitution. (Emphasis added).
This is echoed in the dissenting opinion of the Court, by Judge Rosemary Barkett Georgia Death Row Inmate Loses 11th Circuit Appeal:
The third judge on the panel, Judge Rosemary Barkett, dissented. She said executing an innocent person violates the 8th Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment and the 14th Amendment's guarantee of due process of law.

Stephen B. Bright, president and senior counsel of the Southern Center for Human Rights, echoed Barkett's dissent in an e-mail.

'The judges have completely lost sight of justice,' said Bright. 'They are lost in a maze of procedural rules that obscure the truth instead of revealing it.'
I guess it's not hard to "remain unpersuaded" when you're not really reviewing the full record on guilt or innocence. Justice is definitely missing in this case.

And, let's not forget what is at issue here. As Mary Shaw of Philadelphia Freedom says:
This is despite the fact that the evidence could show that Davis is innocent.

Does Georgia really want to risk executing an innocent man?

And what's to lose by granting him a new hearing? Doesn't Georgia want to be absolutely certain that they are punishing the right guy?

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