Monday, 24 November 2008

Troy Davis Granted Stay of Execution


Troy Davis Granted Stay of Execution

Troy Davis (pictured) was to be executed in Georgia on October 27. On October 24, he was granted a stay of execution by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, a federal court that reviews habeas corpus petitions from prisoners in Georgia. Because of restrictions established by the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), Davis will have to meet a number of conditions that were outlined by the 11th Circuit in their order staying the execution if he is to secure a new trial. The first condition, which Davis has already met, limits the granting of a stay when an inmate is filing a second habeas corpus petition:

“A stay of execution pending disposition of a second or successive federal habeas petition should be granted only where there are ‘substantial grounds upon which relief might be granted.’” In considering whether to grant a motion to stay execution, we consider “the relative harms to the parties,” “the likelihood of success on the merits,” and “the extent to which the inmate has delayed unnecessarily in bringing the claim.”

After balancing these considerations, the three judges of the 11th Circuit panel granted Davis a stay. Secondly, the court will consider whether to grant Davis permission to file a second habeas petition. It will do so only if Davis "makes a prima facie showing that [his application] satisfies the requirements” of AEDPA. These requirements include:

1. That Davis did not previously raise his claim of actual innocence in a prior habeas corpus petition;

2. That Davis' attorneys could not have previously discovered the factual predicate for his claim through the exercise of due diligence; and

3. That Davis demonstrate that he can show that the facts underlying his claim, “if proven and viewed in light of the evidence as a whole, would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that, but for the constitutional error, no reasonable factfinder would have found [Davis] guilty of the underlying offense.

Assuming that Davis can meet these conditions, the Court could then consider Davis' underlying constitutional claim: that in light of the weight of new evidence discovered since Davis' original trial, it would now be a violation of the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishments and the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of due process to carry out his execution. The court also asked Davis and the state of Georgia to address the question of "whether Davis may be executed if he can establish actual innocence under [#3 above], but cannot satisfy his burden under [#2]." Usually, both #2 and #3 have to be met, but because a constitutional claim of innocence based on new evidence confronts the court with the prospect of executing an innocent person who cannot overcome certain procedural barriers, the court appears willing to consider whether an exception is required.

(See In re Troy Anthony Davis, No. 08-16009-P (11th Cir., Order, Oct. 24, 2008) (internal citations omitted).

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