Tuesday, 9 September 2008


URGENT ACTION APPEAL - From Amnesty International USA

09 September 2008

UA 250/08 Death penalty / Legal concern

USA (Georgia) Troy Anthony Davis (m), black, aged 40

Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed in Georgia at 7pm local time on 23
September. He has been on death row for 17 years for a murder he maintains
he did not commit. He has a clemency hearing before the state Board of
Pardons and Paroles on 12 September. It is not known when the Board will
make its decision.

On 28 August 1991 Troy Davis was convicted of the murder of 27-year-old
Officer Mark Allen MacPhail, white, who was shot and killed in the car
park of a Burger King restaurant in Savannah, Georgia, in the early hours
of 19 August 1989. Davis was also convicted of assaulting Larry Young, a
homeless man, who was accosted immediately before Officer MacPhail was
shot. At the trial, Troy Davis admitted that he had been at the scene of
the shooting, but claimed that he had neither assaulted Larry Young nor
shot Officer MacPhail.

There was no physical evidence against Troy Davis and the weapon used in
the crime was never found. The case against him consisted entirely of
witness testimony. In affidavits signed over the years since the trial, a
majority of the state's witnesses have recanted or contradicted their
testimony. In addition, there is post-trial testimony implicating another
man, Sylvester Coles, as the gunman.

In 1989, Kevin McQueen was detained in the same jail as Davis. McQueen
told the police that during this time Troy Davis had confessed to shooting
Officer MacPhail. In a 1996 affidavit, McQueen retracted this statement,
saying that he had given it because he wanted to "get even" with Davis
following a confrontation he said the 2 of them had had.

Monty Holmes testified against Troy Davis in a pre-trial hearing, but did
not testify at the trial because, according to a 2001 affidavit, he did
not want to repeat this false testimony. Jeffrey Sapp testified that Troy
Davis had told him that he had shot the officer. Recanting his testimony
in a 2003 affidavit, he stated that under "a lot of pressure" from police,
he had testified against Troy Davis.

At the trial, eyewitness Dorothy Ferrell identified Troy Davis as the
person who had shot Officer MacPhail. In a 2000 affidavit, she stated that
she had not seen who the gunman was, but testified against Davis out of
fear that if she did not, because she was on parole at the time, she would
be sent back to jail. In a 2002 affidavit, Darrell Collins, 16 years old
at the time of the crime, said that the day after the shooting, 15 or 20
police officers came to his house, and "a lot of them had their guns
drawn." They took him in for questioning, and "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. They would tell me things that they
said had happened and I would repeat whatever they said -- I testified
against Troy at his trial -- because I was still scared that the police
would throw me in jail for being an accessory to murder if I told the
truth aboutwhat happened."

Larry Young, the man who was accosted on the night of the murder,
implicated Troy Davis as the man who had assaulted him. His 2002 affidavit
offers further evidence of a coercive police investigation into the murder
of a fellow officer: "After I was assaulted that night, some police
officers grabbed me and threw me down on the hood of the police car and
handcuffed me. They treated me like a criminal; like I was the one who
killed the officer. They made it clear that we weren't leaving until I
told them what they wanted to hear. They suggested answers and I would
give them what they wanted. They put typed papers in my face and told me
to sign them. I did sign them without reading them."

In his 2002 affidavit he said that he "couldn't honestly remember what
anyone looked like or what different people were wearing."

Antoine Williams, a Burger King employee, had just driven into the
restaurant's car park at the time the shooting occurred. At the trial, he
identified Troy Davis as the person who had shot Officer MacPhail. In 2002
he stated that this was false, and that he had signed a statement for the
police which he could not and did not read: "Even today, I know that I
could not honestly identify with any certainty who shot the officer that
night. I couldn't then either. After the officers talked to me, they gave
me a statement and told me to sign it. I signed it. I did not read it
because I cannot read. At Troy Davis's trial, I identified him as the
person who shot the officer. Even when I said that, I was totally unsure
whether he was the person who shot the officer. I felt pressured to point
at him because he was the one who was sitting in the courtroom. I have no
idea what the person who shot the officer looks like."

On 17 July 2007, the state Board of Pardons and Paroles stayed Davis's
execution less than 24 hours before it was to be carried out. The Georgia
Supreme Court then considered whether a trial-level judge had been wrong
to dismiss Davis's appeal for a new trial in 2007 without conducting a
hearing. On 17 March 2008, in a 4-3 ruling, the state supreme court ruled
that the lower court had not abused its discretion. The Chief Justice
authored the dissenting opinion. She wrote that "this case illustrates
that this Court's approach in extraordinary motions for new trials based
on new evidence is overly rigid and fails to allow an adequate inquiry
into the fundamental question, which is whether or not an innocent person
might have been convicted or even, as in this case, might be put to
death." "In this case,"she wrote, "nearly every witness who identified
Davis as the shooter at trial has now disclaimed his or her ability to do
so reliably. Three persons have stated that Sylvester Coles confessed to
being the shooter. Two witnesses have stated that Sylvester Coles,
contrary to his trial testimony, possessed a handgun immediately after the
murder. Another witness has provided a description of the crimes that
might indicate that Sylvester Coles was the shooter." While she said that
such testimony might be discovered to lack credibility if heard at an
evidentiary hearing, "the collective effect of all of Davis's new
testimony, if it were to be found credible by the trial court in a
hearing, would show the probability that a new jury would find reasonable
doubt of Davis's guilt or a least sufficient residual doubt to decline to
impose the death penalty." The dissenters argued that the trial court
should be ordered to conduct the evidentiary hearing it denied in 2007.

Amnesty International opposes Troy Davis's death sentence unconditionally,
as it does all use of the death penalty. For a full report on this case,
see USA: 'Where is the justice for me?' The case of Troy Davis, facing
execution in Georgia, February 2007,

Since the USA resumed executions in 1977, 1,118 prisoners have been put to
death, 42 of them in Georgia. More than 100 people have been released from
death rows around the country on grounds of innocence, many of them in
cases in which witness testimony has been shown to have been unreliable.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:

- explaining that you are not seeking to condone the murder of Officer
Mark Allen MacPhail, or to downplay the seriousness of the crime or the
suffering caused;

- noting that most of the witnesses whose testimony was used against Troy
Davis at his trial have since recanted or contradicted their testimony,
and that there is new evidence against another suspect in the case;

- noting that three members of the Georgia Supreme Court, including the
Chief Justice, dissented against the court's refusal earlier this year to
order a hearing on the post- conviction evidence of innocence;

- noting the large number of wrongful convictions in capital cases in the
USA since 1976, and noting that unreliability of witness testimony has
been a contributing factor in many of these cases;

- noting that the power of clemency in capital cases exists as a failsafe
against irreversible error that the courts have been unable or unwilling
to remedy;

- calling on the Board to commute the death sentence of Troy Davis.


State Board of Pardons and Paroles
2 Martin Luther King
Jr. Drive, SE, Suite 458, Balcony Level, East Tower
Atlanta, Georgia 30334-4909
Fax: 1 404 651 8502
Email: Webmaster@pap.state.ga.us

Salutation: Dear Board members


Please send as many appeals as possible before 12 September, but appeals
may continue until 23 September.


Tip of the Month:

Write as soon as you can. Try to write as close as possible to the date a
case is issued.


Within the United States:

$0.27 - Postcards
$0.42 - Letters and Cards (up to 1 oz.)
To Mexico and Canada:
$0.72 - Postcards
$0.72 - Airmail Letters and Cards (up to 1 oz.)

To all other destination countries:

$0.94 - Postcards
$0.94 - Airmail Letters and Cards (up to 1 oz.)

Amnesty International is a worldwide grassroots movement that promotes and
defends human rights.

This Urgent Action may be reposted if kept intact, including contact
information and stop action date (if applicable). Thank you for your help
with this appeal.

Urgent Action Network
Amnesty International USA
600 Pennsylvania Ave SE 5th fl
Washington DC 20003
Email: uan@aiusa.org
Phone: 202.544.0200
Fax: 202.675.8566




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