Machinery of death grinds ahead----This man may be innocent. Georgia wants him dead
By NY Daily News Columnist Errol Louis, July 1, 2007
2 days ago, the state of Georgia issued a death warrant in the case of
Troy Anthony Davis, requiring the state's Department of Corrections to
execute him by lethal injection between July 17 and 24.
There's overwhelming evidence that Davis did not commit the murder for
which he has been sentenced to die. But Georgia's machinery of death is
grinding ahead anyway, despite pleas for mercy from a growing number of
voices including Amnesty International and Nobel Peace Prize winner
Late on the night of Aug. 19, 1989, Davis got into a fight with a man
outside a Burger King next to the Greyhound bus station in Savannah. A
27-year-old cop named Mark Allen MacPhail, moonlighting at the station
a security guard, ran to the scene and was shot to death.
No murder weapon was ever found, and no physical evidence made it to
trial. But Davis - a 20-year-old tough known on the streets as RAH, for
"rough as hell," was convicted of the grisly killing and sentenced to
death on the strength of 9 witnesses who claimed they saw him do it or
heard him confess to the crime after the fact.
6 of the nine witnesses have since recanted their testimony, according
the Atlanta Journal-Constitutio
originally testified that he saw Davis pull the trigger, signed a sworn
statement in 2002 that he had "no idea what the person who shot the
officer looks like," and now says he was pressured by cops to finger
Another witness, a woman on parole named Dorothy Ferrell, also signed a
sworn recantation of her original testimony. "I don't know which of the
guys did the shooting because I didn't see that part," she now says. "I
was still scared that if I didn't cooperate with the detective, then he
might find a way to have me locked up again."
A man named Jeffrey Sapp, who testified to hearing Davis brag about the
shooting the day after the murder, also signed a recantation and says
pressured him. "None of that was true," he now says of his original
Another man who claimed Davis confessed to him now says he made up the
story out of spite because Davis once spat in his face while both were
Sensing a pattern?
Stephen Sanders, who was at the Burger King when the shots rang out,
originally told cops he couldn't identify the shooter except by the
of his clothes - but ended up naming Davis as the shooter at the trial,
and is now ducking requests for interviews.
And last but not least, one of the key witnesses, Sylvester (Red) Coles
who originally went to police and named Davis as the shooter - is
the real killer, according to Davis' lawyers. Coles never told cops he
owned a .38 revolver, the kind used in the murder, and 3 people have
forward to say they heard Coles take credit for the killing.
"Red said he killed a policeman and a guy named Troy took the fall for
it," one of these witnesses says.
But none of these facts can change Davis' sentence, thanks to the
Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which puts a
limit on when evidence can be admitted in state death penalty cases.
Davis didn't have the aggressive legal help needed to round up witnesses
in time: Georgia is the only state in the union that doesn't guarantee
death row prisoners a lawyer during crucial points in the appeals
Those who want to help save Davis' life - a commutation would still
him in prison without parole - should write a short note to the Georgia
Board of Pardons and Paroles and send it to Amnesty International, 730
Peachtree St., Suite 1060, Atlanta, Ga. 30308. The letter can be faxed
Please send your note soon. Enough voices raised might just give Davis
room he needs to prove his innocence - and stop the mad rush to
that stains American justice.