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Troy Davis wins review in death penalty case
Supporters call Sept. 26 Washington march
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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 73/No. 33      August 31, 2009


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(lead article)
Troy Davis wins review
in death penalty case
Supporters call Sept. 26 Washington march
Militant/Seth Galinsky
May 19 rally to demand justice for Troy Davis at Union Square in New York City. Fight to save Davis’s life and free him has become rallying point for opponents of death penalty.

ATLANTA, August 17—In a 6-2 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court today ordered a federal judge to determine whether new evidence exists that could prove Troy Davis’s innocence. Davis, a death-row inmate in Georgia, was convicted in 1991 for killing off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail. Davis is Black. MacPhail was white.

Davis’s supporters are organizing a march on Washington, D.C., September 26 to demand a halt to his execution. Amnesty International and Georgians For Alternatives to the Death Penalty are also stepping up efforts to reach out with public educational campaigns to win support for Davis.

In a 2-1 decision in April a federal appeals court ruled against Davis on the grounds that innocence alone is not grounds for a new trial. That ruling also cited the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which imposed deadlines and limited the number of appeals death-row prisoners can make.

Dissenting in today’s ruling, Judge Antonin Scalia called the court action to remand the case to a U.S. district court in Georgia, “an extraordinary step—one not taken in nearly 50 years.” He also asserted that the evidence to be reviewed has already been considered and rejected multiple times. Judge Clarence Thomas joined in dissenting. Judges John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer signed the majority opinion. Newly confirmed Justice Sonia Sotomayor did not participate in the decision.

Stephen Bright of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta called the court’s order “an immensely important decision” but told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that it places the burden of proof upon Davis. Tom Dunn, one of Davis’s attorneys, told the Journal he is confident in his client’s innocence.

Davis has maintained his innocence for the past 20 years. There was no physical evidence linking Davis to the killing. He was convicted on the basis of eyewitness testimony. Since the trial, seven of nine state witnesses have recanted or contradicted their testimony.

An attractive flyer that calls on people to “Get on the bus” is being circulated to build the September 26 march on Washington two days before the Supreme Court reconvenes. Amnesty International is organizing the rally, and buses will be leaving from Atlanta; Savannah, Georgia; North Carolina; and New York City. Details on the march are available at JusticeForTroy.org.

Amnesty International is also urging students to organize teach-ins the week of September 21-27. “We must shine as bright a spotlight on this case as we can, to make it clear to the Court and to Georgia authorities that the injustices of this case are simply not acceptable,” said an Amnesty statement. “So we need all of you to reach out to your campuses and communities.”

James Clark, coordinator of Georgians For Alternatives to the Death Penalty, in a recent letter to supporters outlined the work that has been done in Georgia to put pressure on Larry Chisolm, district attorney in Chatham County where the case was prosecuted.

Teams are collecting signatures on petitions requesting that Chisolm reopen Davis’s case. So far 11,000 signatures of Savannah residents have been publicly presented to Chisolm. Canvassing trips to Savannah will continue every other weekend between now and the march on Washington.
Related articles:
A gain in fight to free Troy Davis
Atlanta socialists back fight to free Troy Davis

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