[Marxism] Troy Davis -- Atlanta protest and what this case shows about U.S. criminal justice
jbustelo at gmail.com
Wed Sep 21 21:02:44 MDT 2011
Some clips from the Atlanta protest on Friday. Many others have also
posted clips to youtube of the speeches, including by Al Sharpton and
Dick Gregory, so I'm not going to post much else. There were about a few
thousand people there, I'd guess, with an impromptu rally outside
Ebenezer Baptist Church accompanying the official event inside because
way more people showed up than the organizers (Amnesty International,
NAACP, Ebenezer) thought would come.
The protest got only a little coverage in the local or national media,
although the case has resonated very widely.
* * *
The following is from an email about this case that I sent a small
circle of other mainstream media journalists a few days ago.
The Troy Davis case is a good illustration of the criminal nature of the
His most recent substantial appeal was an extraordinary evidentiary
hearing and determination of facts before a federal --not state-- judge.
It was held by William T. Moore, the most senior federal district
judge in Savannah.
And Judge Moore rejected the indirect appeal (technically, a habeas
corpus petition) on the grounds that "The burden was on Mr. Davis to
prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that no reasonable juror would
have convicted him in light of the new evidence."
Judge Moore's ruling is here:
Reading it shows just how flimsy the case against Troy Davis was to
begin with -- and how little remains of such evidence as the government
did have. The first part of the ruling is just a recounting of the
investigation and the trial; then a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo to place
an impossible burden of proof on Troy Davis; then a review and analysis
of the new evidence -- witnesses and affidavits -- at this hearing.
The proceedings before Judge Moore were extraordinary. According to some
accounts, it was the first time the U.S. Supreme Court had ordered such
a hearing in a half century. But to all intents and purposes the hearing
was a sham because the judge set the bar impossibly high -- in effect
requiring Troy Davis's side to prove his innocence.
The most convincing of this new evidence --the direct, explicit
recantation by Kevin McQueen, the stool pigeon who claimed Troy Davis
had confessed to him while in jail-- the judge dismisses saying "The
value of that recantation is diminished because it only confirms that
which was obvious at trial—that its author was testifying falsely."
Think about that. McQueen recants his trial testimony, where he said
Troy Davis confessed, which for this judge "confirms" what happened at
the trial. So it doesn't really count.
He even adds "Given that Mr. McQueen's trial testimony was so clearly
fabricated, and was actually contrary to the State's theory of the
case, it is unclear why the State persists in trying to support its
The judge is being disingenuous. Because if it was "obvious" at the time
that the testimony was a fabrication, then Troy Davis should be released
immediately, as it is grave prosecutorial misconduct and a denial of due
process of law for a prosecutor the present testimony s/he knows is
false. It is a denial of a fair trial to do that, and the federal
constitution supposedly guarantees a fair trial.
And if the prosecution had admitted now that the statement was
fabricated, they are pretty much obligated to give him a new trial
because one of the chief elements of proof they offered in the original
trial they now admit was false.
Judge Moore is free to admit the truth because he has set the bar
impossibly high -- he required Troy Davis to show not that he hadn't
received a fair trial, nor that there was real doubt as to his guilt,
but that there is now *no doubt* that he is innocent.
Moreover, while finding the recantation itself credible, he makes an
exception for the motive: "the recantation is credible, with the
exception of the allegation of prosecutorial inducements...".
In a footnote the judge explains, "While the Court credits Mr.
McQueen's recantation, it does not credit the portion of his testimony
claiming that he received inducements to testify at trial. As Mr. Lock
credibility testified, Mr. McQueen received no favorable treatment for
his testimony. (Evidentiary Hearing Transcript at 453-54 ("Q: So my
question to you, Mr. Lock, is: to your knowledge as the chief assistant
district attorney at this time did Mr. McQueen get any benefit for the
information that he was giving . . . regarding Mr. Davis? A: No, and I'm
relatively certain that any assistant district attorney that
contemplated doing that would have come to me about doing it.")
And that carefully worded non-denial ("relatively certain" he would have
been told if McQueen had received consideration) is accepted as
refutation that the prosecution suborned McQueen's perjury. Even though
offering leniency in exchange for testimony is something that goes on
every day in every jurisdiction in this country. A few years ago a
three-judge court of appeals panel finally called things by their right
name and said it was subornation of perjury, a crime that consists of
offering something of value in exchange for testimony (not false
testimony, but any testimony, even if true, except for expert
witnesses). And overturned a drug verdict.
Immediately the other judges of that circuit ordered a new hearing
before all 12 circuit court judges and overturned the decision, saying
when the government did it, it wasn't subornation of perjury because to
say otherwise "would not only be a radical departure from the ingrained
legal culture of our criminal justice system but would also result in
criminalizing historic practice and established law." (US 10th Circuit
Court of Appeals, USA v Singleton.
So it is silly for the judge to pretend it didn't happen in this case.
At his evidentiary hearing, affidavits were presented from 7 key
witnesses at the trial, mostly recanting all or aspects of their
testimony. Judge Moore goes through them showing that they don't *prove*
Troy Davis innocent. But what they do show is police and prosecutorial
misconduct. Eyewitnesses were exposed to Troy Davis's picture as the
suspect *before* being shown a lineup of photographs. Time and again,
the affidavits say the witnesses were pressured by police to testify in
a certain way. Judge Moore discounts all of this because the police say
they didn't do it, and anyways, that doesn't prove Troy Davis is innocent.
And then he further discounts the probative value of the affidavits
because at least some of those people were available to testify at the
hearing but the affidavit was presented instead, which means they could
not be cross-examined. However, the judge does not explain why the
prosecution could not have called them and questioned them about their
What really takes the cake, though, are the testimony and affidavits
about another person who had been present that night and was involved in
the altercation that led to the shooting, a Mr. Coles. This sworn
testimony is that at least on four occasions Coles confessed or
suggested he had been the one who actually shot the off-duty police
officer. Two live witnesses and two sworn statements were admitted; at
least one additional one was rejected for admission for unstated reasons
but the judge said it would not have changed his evaluation.
The judge explains that this is hearsay and thus unpersuasive, and even
cites McQueen's fabrication against Troy Davis to illustrate the problem
with hearsay confessions. And this actually faithfully reflects the law
in the United States. Hearsay testimony is not allowed ... unless they
are the defendant's own words being used against him. Supposed own
words. So if 100 people have heard someone protest his innocence and one
person claims to have heard him admitting guilt or something else that
suggests guilt, only the latter testimony is admissible.
So a fabricated hearsay confession almost certainly bought and paid for
by the prosecutors is plenty good to condemn a man to death, but the
recantation of that confession plus at least five incidents where
someone else confessed aren't enough to get the sentence commuted, never
mind entitle Troy Davis to a new trial.
Bottom line: Troy Davis is on death row on the basis of fabrications and
police-coerced testimony that has now been recanted under oath.
Troy Davis is a Black man accused of killing a white police officer, and
this is Georgia.
So they're going to lynch him anyways.
* * *
Latest is that the execution is now being carried out.
More information about the Marxism