Is Georgia About to Execute an Innocent Man?

 The Department of Corrections announced today that Troy Davis will be executed on September 21 at 7pm EDT for the murder of Marc MacPhail.  But is Georgia's method of justice taking another innocent life?

Marc MacPhail, a white cop, was shot and killed in a Burger King parking lot in Savannah Georgia in 1989.  Two years later, Davis, a black man,  was sentenced to death for the murder.  But there is a wealth of details missing from the case, and anti-death penalty advocates, as well as anti-cold-blooded murder advocates, are trying to prevent what may very well be the state-certified, vengeful murder of the wrong man. 

The evidence against  Davis is blurry at best, and more than implicate the man in question, it presents an image of police and judicial incompetence.

First off, Davis was also convicted of shooting Michael Cooper and assaulting Larry Young earlier in the night MacPhail died, but both victims later denied that Davis was their attacker.  Second, police never recovered a murder weapon, nor any physical weapon evidence against Davis.  Third, only eye-witness testimony (which basic psychology has proven again and again to be inefficient) held together the case against him, and even that has crumbled:  Seven of the nine witnesses who implicated Davis have recanted.  Even more telling is that one of the remaining two, Sylvester Coles - the very man who accused Davis in the first place - is now accused of the murder by more witnesses than Davis himself. The other witness sticking to the case against Davis? He could only recall the color of the shooter's clothes. Apparently, a wardrobe ID is enough to put a man on death row.

Here's what the witnesses had to say (From the fact sheet):

Darrell Collins: “[The police] were telling me that I was an accessory to murder and that I would … go to jail for a long time and I would be lucky if I ever got out, especially because a police officer got killed…I was only sixteen and was so scared of going to jail.”

Antoine Williams: “After the officers talked to me, they gave me a statement and told me to sign it. I signed it. I did not read it because I cannot read … I was totally unsure whether he was the person who shot the officer. I felt pressured to point at him ... I have no idea what the person who shot the officer looks like.”

Jeffrey Sapp: “The police came and talked to me and put a lot of pressure on me…. They wanted me to tell them that Troy confessed to me about killing that officer. The thing is, Troy never told me anything about it. I got tired of them harassing me …. I told them that Troy did it, but it wasn’t true.”

Daniel Kinsman: “[T]here was and is no doubt in my mind that the person who shot the officer had the gun in and was shooting with his left hand.” Davis is right-handed.

Was Coles, Davis's accuser, the real killer? More witnesses speak:

Shirley Riley: "People on the streets were talking about Sylvester Coles being involved with killing the police officer, so one day I asked him if he was involved …. Sylvester told me he did shoot the officer."

Joseph Washington: “I am positive that it was Red [Coles’ knick name] who shot the police officer… [He] was wearing a white shirt…I had no idea that the shirt…was important because no one ever asked me…I would have testified to this but I was not asked by the state or by Troy’s lawyers.”

In a country that prides itself on maintaining the accused as "innocent until proven guilty," we sometimes miss the mark when it comes to the "proof" part.  But this case demonstrates how police, when they lose one of their own, are often more eager to find revenge than they are serve justice.  A slew of appeals could not remedy what seems to be the misplacing of guilt, and September 21st is Davis's fourth, and most likely last, death date.   

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at September 7, 2011, 10:17am

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