An innocent man executed ? Troy Davis Case: US Capital Punishment Issue
Troy Davis (42) of African American descent who was found guilty for the killing of an off duty police officer in 1989 was executed by lethal injection on September 22nd in the state of Georgia in the United States of America. He had been on death row for 22 years and was definitely not the same man he had been when he was 20 years old at the time of his conviction.
Many people believe that if one must be executed, It should be soon after his trial and conviction or not at all. Others argue that with all the new DNA technology becoming more efficient in exonerating death row inmates, they should be given more time to prove their innocence. Many believe that nobody currently deserved more time than Troy Davis himself. Davis has always maintained his innocence from the start but the jury believed otherwise until recently. Some jury members have said they would vote differently today if they had known what they know now back in 1989 during the time of Davis’ trial.
According to police reports Davis was executed for the killing of police Officer Mark MacPhail who was working as an off duty security guard. MacPhail went to help a homeless man who was attacked and then MacPhail was shot. An eye witness to the scene, Sylvester Coles implicated Davis as the man who shot MacPhail. Since that time however 7 of the 9 key witnesses have recanted their claims saying their evidence was false and others have testified that Coles was the actual killer of MacPhail, not Davis. One of the two witnesses who has not recanted has not talked about the case for 20 years out of fear and the second was Coles himself.
No murder weapon was ever found and Coles admitted that he had a .38 caliber hand gun similar to the one used to kill MacPhail but he said he gave it away to another man earlier the same night. Antoine Williams one of the 9 witnesses now says he actually had no idea who shot the officer and said he and others were coerced into signing a police statement even though they were illiterate and could not read what they were signing. Others falsely testified they overheard Davis confess to the murder. Witnesses said they were threatened by police and were forced to lie or be forced to go on trial themselves for not co-operating. There are 9 people who have evidence today that implicate Coles as the killer not Davis. One of them Miss Quiana Glover said she heard Coles confess to the killing in 2009 when he was under the heavy influence of alcohol.
So one must ask themselves, why was Davis convicted and then executed? The most common reasons for wrongful convictions are mistaken eyewitness testimonies. The false testimony of “informants” and incentivized witnesses, incompetent court appointed defense attorneys, defective or fraudulent scientific evidence, prosecutorial and police misconduct and false confessions. False witness evidence has been found to be a crucial factor in 75% of the cases where convicted prisoners were found to be innocent and then exonerated. Between 1973 to 2008 129 inmates on death row were exonerated and freed in the USA.
DNA played a major role in overturning 12 of these wrongful death row convictions. Troy Davis was convicted with no DNA nor forensic evidence and again no murder weapon was ever found. He also was denied a request to take a polygraph lie detector test during his last hours.
34 out 50 US States currently have the death penalty that was reinstated into American society in 1976 by the US SUPREME COURT. The USA has executed 1,270 people since then and still has 3,251 death row inmates. The State of Texas has had the most executions with 475 and still has 321 death row inmates. Florida is second with 398 death row inmates. Rick Perry, the current front runner for the Republican Party’s bid for the White House in 2012 has proudly had 234 people executed during his reign as Governor of Texas.
With politicians, lawyers and judges trying to build a conservative “tough on crime” reputation for their election campaigns, that is also supported by the right wing media and the general public, we may never see the end of capital punishment in the USA even though the 8th amendment of the US CONSTITUTION has vowed to protect US citizens from cruel and unusual punishment.
Robert W. Curley, Jr.
Consultant for Business Law in English
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