Supreme Court grants Davis another hearing

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Convicted killer Troy Anthony Davis is getting another chance to prove his innocence.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court granted Davis' request for a hearing in the federal district court in Savannah.

Davis was convicted for the 1989 murder of Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail and has been on death row since his conviction in 1991.

Since then, seven witnesses have recanted their testimony and an effort to free Davis has gained both national and international attention.

Over the years, he's filed numerous appeals and received several stays of execution.

Georgia's high court issued a stay three days before Davis' scheduled execution on Oct. 27, 2008. It was the third time since July, 2007, that Davis has been spared the death penalty by a late court decision.

In December, 2008, Davis' lawyers filed the appeal with the 11th Circuit Court, the last place they could bring their case for a new trial for Davis.

That request was denied, but then in April, defense lawyers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court for the case to have another hearing.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court granted Davis' request for a hearing in federal court in Georgia.

Now, a Georgia federal judge must decide if there is enough evidence to prove that Davis did not murder MacPhail.

Justice John Paul Stevens, along with justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, were all in favor of sending the case back to the federal district court in Savannah.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas however, disagreed with the court's decision. In an opinion, Scalia said that to grant Davis another hearing is like sending Georgia's federal court "on a fool's errand."

But justices Stevens, Ginsburg and Breyer say there is "adequate justification" for an evidentiary hearing if it means not putting a potentially innocent man to death.

According to the US Supreme Court's public information office, it's unclear how John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito voted in the case.

However, officials say at least two of those justices would have also to have voted in favor of Davis for the case to be sent to Georgia's federal court for a hearing.

Newly appointed Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor did not participate in this order.

To read the entire opinion from Justice Scalia, click here.

To read the entire opinion from Justice Stevens, click here.

Davis supporters have also asked Chatham County district attorney Larry Chisolm to reopen the case and in June, delivered a petition with thousands of signatures to the DA's office.

See Davis supporters want DA to reopen case.

However, Chisolm has said he wants the final appeal process to play out before making any decisions.

Monday, Chisolm issued a statement in response to the US Supreme Court's decision:

"In a very unusual move, the United States Supreme Court has transferred the petition of Troy Anthony Davis to the local federal court.

The Supreme Court further instructed the local federal court to receive testimony and make findings of fact on whether there is evidence that was not presented at the trial 19 years ago, that clearly establishes that Troy Anthony Davis is innocent.

The citizens of Chatham County should be clear in their understanding that this is not a new trial of the case before a jury. The hearing of this case before a federal judge affords Troy Davis the opportunity to have any evidence that supports his innocence claim that was found after the trial to be heard all at one time in court. As a result, the case could continue to execution, be sent back for re-trial or appealed once again. We do not expect a quick outcome in any event.

The District Attorney's Office has no public comment on the substance of the Court's ruling or the facts of this case until the federal courts have concluded their hearings and appeals. The State will be represented in the local federal hearing by Georgia State Attorney General Thurbert Baker and his office."

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