(Atlanta) - Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) condemned in the strongest terms today's 11th Circuit Court decision to deny Troy Davis a second petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the district court. The human rights organization considers the decision a contrived barrier to justice that could ultimately lead to the execution of a man with a strong claim of innocence.
"Today's decision is an affront to basic human rights and demonstrates that legal technicalities have become a dangerous excuse to undermine justice," said Larry Cox, executive director for AIUSA. "Yet again the courts are placing procedural obstacles over the critical issue of innocence, and, by extension, the value of human life. The bar for admitting evidence has been raised to such a level that no one arguing his innocence would be able jump that hurdle."
Davis' attorneys filed a November 10 brief in support of the second petition on the grounds that it was the first time Davis was presenting a free-standing innocence claim and that no court has yet held an evidentiary hearing on the new evidence of recanted testimony. On December 9th, the Court heard oral arguments in the case. However the 11th Circuit Court today denied the petition, with the majority noting several times that they were "constrained" by procedural rules. The Court did mandate a 30-day continuation of Davis' stay of execution so that he has the opportunity to file a habeas corpus petition with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Davis was convicted in 1991 of killing Savannah police officer Mark Allen MacPhail. Authorities failed to produce a murder weapon or physical evidence tying Davis to the crime. Seven of the nine original state witnesses have recanted or changed their initial testimonies in sworn affidavits. One of the remaining witnesses is alleged to be the actual perpetrator. Since the launch of its February 2007 report, Where Is the Justice for Me?, Amnesty International has campaigned intensively for a new evidentiary hearing or trial, as well as clemency for Davis, collecting hundreds of thousands of clemency petition signatures and letters from prominent individuals around the world.
"It is time for lawmakers in Georgia and across the United States to confront our morally bankrupt and perilously broken death penalty system," said Jared Feuer, southern regional director for AIUSA. "Troy Davis' case shows us everything that is wrong with the death penalty system, including its inability to correct its mistakes."
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots organization with more than 2.2 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries who campaign for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.
For more information about the Troy Davis case, please visit: www.amnestyusa.org/troydavis