High court: Georgia man should get hearing

The Supreme Court in an exceptional move Monday ordered a U.S. district court in Georgia to hear new testimony in the case of Troy Davis, who was sentenced to death for killing a police officer nearly two decades ago.

The justices said a lower court judge should determine whether new evidence "clearly establishes" Davis' innocence. Since his jury conviction 18 years ago, seven of the prosecution's witnesses have recanted their testimony about what happened in a Savannah parking lot the night officer Mark Allen MacPhail was shot dead.

Further, some individuals have since said the prosecution's key witness was the shooter, not Davis.

Davis' case has elicited national interest across the ideological spectrum, and the NAACP and former congressman Bob Barr, R-Ga., had submitted "friend of the court" briefs siding with Davis' in his bid for high court intervention. Davis' case had been pending before the justices for months, and the majority's action demonstrates that they were plainly concerned that an innocent person might be facing death.

Justice Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented from the order, declaring the court's action "extraordinary … one not taken in nearly 50 years" and asserting that "every judicial and executive body that has examined (Davis') stale claim of innocence has been unpersuaded."

Taking issue with Scalia's stance, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that he and Thomas were wrongly assuming, despite the new information, that Davis was guilty. Stevens noted that several key witnesses against Davis had recanted, several people "had implicated the state's principal witness," and that no state or federal court had ever reviewed all the new evidence and whether it could show Davis' innocence.

"The substantial risk of putting an innocent man to death clearly provides an adequate justification" for a hearing, Stevens wrote in a concurring statement, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

Newest Justice Sonia Sotomayor took no part in the consideration of Davis' petition.

Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: Ebola patients Nina Pham, left, Dr. Craig Spencer, center, and Amber Vinson are seen in undated file photos.
Courtesy Pham Family | LinkedIn | Obtained by ABC
PHOTO: Television personalities Mama June and Honey Boo Boo are seen in this, June 11, 2014, file photo.
Douglas Gorenstein/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images
PHOTO: Overall winner for the Wildlife Photography of the Year 2014, The last great picture by Michael Nick Nichols.
Michael Nick Nichols/Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014
PHOTO: Queen Elizabeth II sends her first Tweet during a visit to the Science Museum on Oct. 24, 2014 in London, England.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images