In what could be one step closer to his freedom, death row inmate Troy Davis returned to a Savannah, Ga. court June 23 to offer evidence he believes will negate his 1991 conviction for murder.

Based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision last August, Davis’ lawyers will offer evidence – including recanted testimony – that they hope will “clearly establish” his innocence in the slaying of off-duty police officer, Mark Allen MacPhail.

“This is certainly an amazing opportunity for Troy to be able to air those claims of innocence and have all those witnesses who recanted – and have never been back in a court of law – to give their testimony and be examined,” said Laura Moye, director of Amnesty International USA’s Death Penalty Abolition Campaign, which has been championing Davis’ case. “It’s going to be quite a hearing in terms of its significance for Troy – it’s life and death for him – and the rest of the country it could lead to the clarification by the U.S. Supreme Court about whether it is in fact unconstitutional to execute an innocent person.”

The hearing is a hard-won victory in Davis’ 19-year fight to receive what he and his supporters deem true justice. Davis, 41, has consistently maintained his innocence. And, since his conviction, seven of the nine witnesses have retracted their testimony, some saying they were pressured to lie by police and others fingering the state’s main witness as the actual killer.

Georgia courts refused to hear and rule on the new evidence, however, until the U.S. Supreme Court voted 6-2 for U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr. to conduct the fact finding hearing.

Davis and his supporters remain tentatively hopeful about the outcome.
“I visited Troy on Sunday, and I asked him how he was feeling, and he said he’s not sure how to feel,” Moye told the AFRO. “His life has been on a rollercoaster, and he, I think, is a little bit nervous to get too excited about it because things go up and down, and his life is on the line.

“But I could very much sense that he has not lost the hope that he has had from the beginning.”

Martina Correia, 43, Davis’ eldest sister, said she too is hopeful but she remains concerned about him getting justice in such an antagonistic environment. “There’s a lot of hate among the police officers who investigated and the Fraternal Order of Police are very nasty, very racist because all they see of Troy is a Black man accused of killing a police officer,” she said. “They don’t care whether Troy is innocent or guilty they just want him to die.”

Correia said she’s buoyed by the worldwide scrutiny – and support – the case has received, however.

Tuesday marked another Global Day of Action for Troy Davis and more than 37 events, globally, were registered with Amnesty.

Additionally, U.S. and international press have covered the case and plan to be in the Savannah courtroom this week, she added. “People are gearing up and standing in line as early as 5 o’clock in the morning from all over the world. And those who can’t get in will be standing outside in the square across from the court house in solidarity for Troy.”


Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO