Amnesty International has reacted with dismay to a major setback for Troy Davis, the 42-year-old man on death row in the US state of Georgia.
Today the US Supreme Court’s rejected his appeal against a federal district court’s ruling that Davis did not prove his innocence in an evidentiary hearing held last year.
Today’s decision means that Davis, who has been on death row for over 19 years and has already had three execution dates, is likely to receive a new date for execution within weeks.
Davis was sentenced to death in 1991 for the 1989 murder of a police officer, Mark MacPhail. The case is highly controversial, however. There is no physical evidence linking Davis to the crime and the case against him consisted entirely of witness testimony which has since been called into serious question.
Amnesty International USA Death Penalty Abolition Campaign Director Laura Moye said:
“Amnesty International is extremely disappointed that the Supreme Court rejected Troy Davis’ appeal.
“It appears that the justice system is comfortable allowing someone to be executed when there are lingering doubts about guilt in the case.
“No objective person could confidently determine that Davis is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt from the evidence available now in his case. That leaves an ominous cloud hanging over an irreversible sentence such as the death penalty.
“Because there was no physical evidence linking Davis to the murder, nor was there physical evidence exonerating him, the case rested on a group of witnesses whose credibility was readily accepted for conviction, but so easily rejected in the appeals process.
“The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, as the final fail-safe, has the opportunity to commute his sentence to life and prevent the possibility of executing an innocent person.”
Over 17,000 Amnesty supporters in the UK have petitioned the authorities in the state of Georgia to ensure that, given the considerable doubts about the safety of his conviction, Davis is not executed (see http://amn.st/aNiuzo
Today’s major setback for davis comes as Amnesty published its annual report on the global use of the death penalty. The report shows that use of capital punishment is shrinking around the world, though the USA executed 46 people in 2010, the fifth largest number of any country in the world. However this figure is itself considerably down on execution rates in the USA a decade ago.