A man who dodged his date with the executioner three times, once by a mere 90 minutes, returns to a Savannah, Ga., courtroom today where so far four witnesses have recanted testimony that put him on death row 19 years ago.
Troy Anthony Davis, now 40, was convicted in 1991 of murdering Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail.
According to court documents, the conviction was based on the testimony of nine witnesses who identified Davis as the man who shot MacPhail in 1989. There was no physical evidence introduced in the trial and the murder weapon was never found.
Now, 19 years later, most of those witnesses are recanting their testimony, including four who appeared in court Wednesday.
"I was so scared I told them anything they wanted to hear," Jeffrey Sapp, a witness who fingered Davis as the shooter in the 1991 trail, said Wednesday in released testimony.
Sapp said in court Wednesday the police told him, "Just say Troy told you. Just say Troy told you." Other witnesses told similar stories Wednesday, as Davis fights for his life after sitting on death row for close to 20 years.
Kevin McQueen had testified in 1991 that Davis admitted killing MacPhail, yet now McQueen says there is simply "no truth" to his original testimony.
"He never told me nothing like this. ... He never confessed to shooting anybody to me," McQueen testified Wednesday.
Last year the Supreme Court, for the first time in 50 years, granted a writ of habeas corpus for a case filed directly to its docket rather than hearing an appeal from a lower court ruling.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court wrote that a hearing should be convened to hear testimony to determine whether or not Davis' claims "clearly establish" his innocence.
The hearing is being presided over by U.S. District Court Judge William T. Moore Jr., who could declare Davis innocent, affirm his guilt, or order a new trial.
The prosecution, which maintains that they convicted the right man, will present its case today. The hearing could conclude today, although it will be months before Moore renders a decision.
The prosecution argued in 1991 that Davis was involved in an argument with several men near a Savannah bus station, and witnesses testified that Davis struck a man on the head with a handgun before fleeing the scene with another man, Sylvester Coles.
MacPhail, off-duty at the time, was working security at the bus station and witnessed the incident before giving chase to Coles and Davis. During the pursuit Davis allegedly shot MacPhail, and as MacPhail, 27, lay wounded on the ground Davis "stood over him, smiled and fired the final shot," court documents say.
During the trial, Davis maintained it was Coles who shot and killed MacPhail.
Coles, however, went to the police shortly after the shooting and according to court records implicated Davis as the shooter, while Davis fled the Savannah area and went to Atlanta.
Coles went on to be one of the prosecution's witnesses against Davis in the trial. Coles and one other man, Steve Sanders are the only two people who have not recanted testimony against Davis. Sanders' testimony identified Davis as the shooter, despite telling police originally he "would not recognize the shooter," court documents say.