Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay less than two hours before Troy Davis was scheduled to be executed in Georgia for a murder he says he didn’t commit. The justices issued the stay so they would have time to decide whether there is sufficient doubt about Davis’ guilt to necessitate further review. The Georgia Supreme Court declined to grant Davis a new hearing, citing a precedent saying that it would only grant a new trial if there was proof, with “no doubt of any kind,” that a witness’ trial testimony was “the purest fabrication.” Davis’ attorneys say that sets the bar too high. A decision is expected from the high court by Oct. 6.
An article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today examines the court’s motivation for granting a stay in the Davis case, and the effect the final decision could have on future cases.
With the exonerations of inmates nationwide based on DNA evidence, the U.S. Supreme Court is giving more careful scrutiny to innocence claims, said (Indiana University law professor Joseph) Hoffman, a death penalty expert.
“This is the kind of case that has the court on edge right now,” he said. “So it’s not completely surprising that out of all the death cases that come before it this would be the one granted a stay.”
Ezekiel Edwards, an attorney with the Innocence Project in New York, called the state Supreme Court’s decision troubling.
“It sets a terrible precedent for innocent people who are incarcerated and where there isn’t DNA evidence but where there may be one or multiple recanting witnesses who for a whole bevy of reasons are saying their original testimony was false,” he said. “In most recantation cases, you could never meet the standard they’ve set.”
Read the full story here
. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 09/29/08)