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Big Win for Davis

AFRO.com, News Report , AFRO Staff Posted: Aug 18, 2009

The Supreme Court on Aug. 17 ruled that Troy Davis, on death row since 1991, can present evidence of his innocence not available at his original trial.

The ruling, with Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor sitting out and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissenting, returns the case to the Southern District Court of Georgia. That court is charged with hearing new evidence of Davis' innocence to determine if it is valid.

Davis was tried and convicted of killing off-duty police officer Mark Allen MacPhail, shot in 1989. MacPhail was responding to the beating of a homeless person when he was shot several times in the back.

Since the trial, the majority of the prosecution's witnesses have recanted their statements, with several claiming a witnesses was the actual shooter. Davis has maintained his innocence from the start, saying he was at the scene but did not shoot.

The NAACP and Amnesty International, both working hard to get the word out about Davis' case and his innocence, issued statements Aug. 17 to supporters thanking them for their assistance in the case.

In the ruling, Justice John Paul Stevens, writing the concurring opinion, states, "The substantial risk of putting an innocent man to death clearly provides an adequate justification for holding an evidentiary hearing.

"Justice Scalia would pretermit [referring to the dissenting ruling] all of these unresolved legal questions on the theory that we must treat even the most robust showing of actual innocence identically on habeas review to an accusation of minor procedural error. Without briefing or argument, he concludes that Congress chose to foreclose relief and that the Constitution permits this. But imagine a petitioner in Davis' situation who possesses new evidence conclusively and definitively proving, beyond a scintilla of doubt, that he is an innocent man. The dissent's reasoning would allow such a petitioner to be put to death nonetheless. The Court correctly refuses to endorse such reasoning."

According to reports from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the case was not assigned to a judge. The AJC source, Clerk of Court Scott Poff, said that when the case is transferred, it is likely to be assigned to Chief Judge William T. Moore Jr. or Senior Judge B. Avant Edenfield.

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