In 1991, Troy Anthony Davis was convicted of killing police officer Mark MacPhail in 1989.
Shortly after that police officer’s death, another man – Sylvester “Redd” Coles – told authorities that he and Davis were both at the scene of the crime, and that Davis was still there when he left and heard gun shots. And that was the basis for the case against Davis: a few other people came forward and said they saw him at the scene of the crime, and murder was the case that they gave him.
This is where it all gets complicated.
In August, a federal judge emphatically rejected Davis’ claims that he was wrongly convicted. In a 172-page order, U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr. said Davis failed to prove his innocence during an extraordinary hearing in June ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court.
At the June hearing, Davis’ lawyers wanted to call witnesses who had given sworn statements that Coles had told them after the trial he was the actual killer. But Moore did not allow these witnesses to testify because Davis’ lawyers did not subpoena Coles to testify. If they had, the judge said, he could have tested the validity of Coles’ alleged confessions.
If Coles had in fact confessed to these witnesses, Moore suggested there could be an explanation –“he believed that his reputation as a dangerous individual would be enhanced if he took credit for murdering Officer MacPhail.” Davis failed to prove the alleged confessions were truthful, Moore noted.
Of the seven witnesses Davis’ legal team say recanted their trial testimony, “only one is a meaningful, credible recantation.” The value of this recantation — given by a jailhouse snitch who testified Davis told him he killed MacPhail — is diminished because it was already clear the witness testified falsely at trial, the judge said.
Moore answered one question posed to him 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,” the U.S. district judge wrote in August.
Mind you, seven of the nine witness who testified against Davis said they pressured or coerced into implicating him. And no physical evidence at the scene of the crime tied him to Officer McPhail’s death. And no gun was ever recovered. Despite all of that, Troy Anthony Davis is set to die between September 21 and 24.