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Vol. 73/No. 33      August 31, 2009

A gain in fight to free Troy Davis
In the face of worldwide support for death-row inmate Troy Davis, the U.S. Supreme Court has ordered a federal district court to “receive testimony and make findings of fact” in his case. Davis, who is Black, was convicted in 1991 in a frame-up trial in a Georgia court for the shooting death of a white cop. His case mirrors that of many other workers railroaded to jail by the capitalist system, especially those who are African American.

Since his trial, seven of nine state witnesses against him—those who were not cops—have recanted or contradicted their testimony. Many of them have signed affidavits saying they were pressured by the police to name Davis as the killer. In one such affidavit, Dorothy Ferrell said she “felt like I had to cooperate with the officer because of my being on parole … I told the detective that Troy Davis was the shooter, even though the truth was that I didn’t see who shot the officer.” The Supreme Court noted that not a single state or federal court ever considered this evidence. They simply threw out every appeal Davis made.

The Supreme Court’s decision to compel the lower court to now hear the evidence was not unanimous. Both justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas signed a dissent, written by Scalia. Innocence is irrelevant to whether you should be executed, Scalia essentially argued. “This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’ innocent,” he wrote.

Scalia gave great weight to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, engineered by then-president William Clinton. That law sharply reduced the ability of prisoners to appeal and was used extensively by the lower courts in Georgia as a rationale to reject Davis’s efforts to reopen his case once more evidence of the police frame-up against him emerged.

The Supreme Court’s decision strengthens Davis supporters’ ability to reach out widely with this case and bring the maximum pressure to bear to win a reversal of a gross injustice. Supporters of Davis have called for a national march on Washington September 26 and a week of teach-ins and other educational activities for September 21-27. These offer an excellent opportunity to strike another blow at the barbaric death penalty and bring Davis one step closer to freedom.
Related articles:
Troy Davis wins review in death penalty case
Supporters call Sept. 26 Washington march
Atlanta socialists back fight to free Troy Davis  
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