Saturday, 20 June 2009

NAACP top exec says cop-killer conviction was built on 'lies'

Jan Skutch | Morris News Service

Friday, June 19, 2009 8:42 a.m.

SAVANNAH -- If the conviction of Troy Anthony Davis and his subsequent death sentencing resulted from "lies," then a "cop killer" has remained at large for 18 years, the top executive of the national NAACP says.

That is what occurred, asserted Benjamin Jealous, president and chief executive officer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and it demands that Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisolm reopen the case.

"The interest of the state is in the truth," he told the Savannah Morning News in an interview.

Jealous was in Savannah Friday as part of "I AM TROY," a grassroots campaign and petition drive to spare Davis from execution at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison near Jackson.

The campaign is part of a nationwide initiative.

Davis, 38, was convicted and sentenced to die in 1991 for the murder of off-duty Savannah police officer Mark Allen MacPhail.

A litany of appeals has failed to sway various courts, although Davis has evaded execution three times.

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to consider the latest challenge by attorneys for Davis.

Jealous, along with state and Savannah Branch NAACP groups, wants Chisolm to reopen the case and find the assailant who is truly guilty.

They say seven of the nine state witnesses at the original trial have recanted their testimony. Execution of Davis will mean a possibly innocent man will die, they further argue.

Central to the position taken by Jealous is the testimony of seven of the nine witnesses.

Their trial testimonies were "lies," he said.

"If Troy Davis was convicted on lies, then the truth is: A killer's on the loose," he said.

The witnesses did not just question their prior statements.

"They contradicted it," he said.

By "voluntarily" coming forward and changing their testimony, each has opened him or herself to prosecution on charges of perjury, Jealous said.

He called it reasonable to believe that if the Davis jury had heard what the witnesses say now, "Troy Davis would not have been convicted."

But Jealous said Georgia courts have not listened to calls to air the new evidence that he called compelling.

He said the questionable testimony resulted from "multiple levels of coercion" - fear of "bad actors in the community," other witnesses or fear of police, he said.

Jealous, whose family was in law enforcement, said he understands the "fraternity" among police officers and the desire for resolution when one of their own is slain.

"I don't ascribe any bad motives," he said.

From the Friday, June 19, 2009 online edition of The Augusta Chronicle

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