It stupefies me that we are even having to discuss whether a man sentenced to death could receive a stay of execution and not an automatic reprieve when multiple witnesses against him have recanted their testimony… that is to say, taken the testimony back.
Americans fed a steady diet of Hollywood-concocted police procedurals and crime dramas have come to expect that police will always find, if not a smoking gun, at least a few damning pieces of forensic evidence. Real life is rarely so satisfying. In the Davis case, there was precious little physical evidence — no DNA, no fingerprints, not even the murder weapon, writes Cynthia Tucker for the Atlanta Constitution.
Also, USA Today ran an article where I found the following excerpt:
Prosecutors have labeled the statements of witnesses who recanted "suspect," and courts had previously refused requests for a new trial.
The stay will remain in effect while the court considers Davis’ appeal. The court is set to discuss the case Monday. Davis wants the high court to order a judge to hear from the witnesses who recanted their testimony and others who say another man confessed to the crime.
Influential advocates, including former President Jimmy Carter and South Africa Archbishop Desmond Tutu, insist that there’s enough doubt about his guilt to merit a new trial.
As Ms. Tucker points out, so many people across this country are convicted on so little information as "eyewitness identification" and circumstantial evidence. As a general rule and criminal defense attorney, I would like to see more evidence but can understand the law on how these sorts of convictions are reached. However, when you have 7 out of 9 people recant their testimony, it boggles my mind that anyone would go forward with the death penalty. While the system legally has convicted Troy Davis, and purely under the system he could be executed, no room for error exists, as once he’s gone, he’s gone.
Why would the prosecutors label the recantations as "suspect"? While it may come at a time that forces them to revisit the case and we all know that prosecutors offices are innundated with cases, that still does not relieve them of their duty to see that justice is done, and executing an innocent man is not justice.
All that is being sought is a new trial–surely when there is this amount of "suspect" evidence, it warrants that to allow a jury to decide, or in this case, re-decide. The facts have changed. They are not what they once were.