Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Judge rejects Troy Davis innocence claim

By Bill Rankin

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A federal judge on Tuesday emphatically rejected condemned inmate
Troy Anthony Davis' claims that he was wrongly convicted of killing a
Savannah Police officer in 1989.

In a 174-page order, U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr. said
Davis had failed to prove his innocence during an extraordinary
hearing this summer ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Ultimately, while Mr. Davis' new evidence casts some additional,
minimal doubt on his conviction, it is largely smoke and mirrors,"
Moore wrote. "The vast majority of the evidence at trial remains
largely intact, and the new evidence is largely not credible or
lacking in probative value."

Davis sits on death row for killing off-duty police Officer Mark
Allen MacPhail as MacPhail ran to the aid of a homeless man being
pistol-whipped. Davis's case has attracted international attention
because a number of key prosecution witnesses have either recanted or
backed off their trial testimony. Other witnesses have come forward
and said another man at the scene, Sylvester "Redd" Coles, told them
he was the actual killer.

Moore faulted Davis' legal team for not calling Coles to the witness
stand during the specially ordered hearing to test the validity of
his alleged confessions.

Moore did answer one question posed by the U.S. Supreme Court. He
found that executing an innocent person would violate the Eighth
Amendment's ban against cruel and unusual punishment.

"However, Mr. Davis is not innocent," Moore wrote.

Davis' new evidence, offered during a two-day hearing in June, "does
not change the balance of the trial," the judge found.

Of the seven witnesses Davis' legal team say have recanted their
trial testimony, "only one is a meaningful, credible recantation."
The value of this recantation is diminished, the judge added, because
it was already obvious the witness was testifying falsely at trial,
Moore wrote.

Davis' sister, Martina Correia, told The Associated Press her family
wasn't giving up hope.

"We will continue to fight. And we'll appeal," Correia said. "I have
to talk to the lawyers and find out what the next steps are."

The victim's mother, Anneliese MacPhail, said she was pleased by the
ruling but nervous that it may not stick.

"I'm not holding my breath," said MacPhail, 76. "We've been through
to much to think this is over soon. For 19 years we've been going
back and forth, and too often in the 11th hour something happens."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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