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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Death Row Inmate Troy Davis Denied Opportunity to Prove Innocence

June 3, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

A woman speaks at a podium in front of a large sign reading Stand Firm for Justice.

Troy Davis' sister Martina Correia speaks at Action Day for Troy Davis on October 26, 2008, in Atlanta, Ga. Photo Credit: World Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

Congressional leaders and civil rights groups are calling for intervention in the case of Troy Davis, who currently sits on death row in Georgia for a murder he may not have committed.

On May 22, 24 members of Congress sent a letter to Eric Holder, the U.S. attorney general, requesting federal action on Davis' behalf. Other groups such as Amnesty International and the NAACP have launched petitions that will be submitted to Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, as well as other government officials, demanding justice.

In 1991, Troy Davis was found guilty of the murder of an off-duty police officer in Savannah, Ga., based solely on witness testimony. Since then, seven of the nine non-police officer witnesses have taken back their testimony against Davis. Many of the witnesses claim to have been pressured into providing damaging testimony against Davis by police officers eager for a conviction.

In light of this new evidence, many people think that Davis deserves a new trial.

Despite the withdrawn testimonies and the absence of physical evidence to tie Davis to the crime, the courts have continuously denied his petitions for a new trial. On April 16, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Davis a hearing to present new evidence, writing, "Davis has not presented us with a showing of innocence so compelling that we would be obligated to act today."

Troy Davis is now petitioning the Supreme Court to send his case back to a federal district court to hear new evidence supporting his innocence. The petition says that going forward with Davis' execution without a "full and fair hearing in which he could make a truly persuasive demonstration that he is actually innocent" would be unconstitutional.

Current law makes it difficult for a death row inmate to appeal his or her case to the higher courts. This has spurred civil rights leaders to appeal for government intervention. "An innocent man may be executed." says Ben Jealous, president of the NAACP, in a statement to the public. "You and I must work together to reform our country's criminal justice system, and we must start by saving the life of one man."

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