Errol Louis, an editorial columnist in the New York Daily News, writes about Troy Anthony Davis in, "Machinery of Death Grinds Ahead: This man may be innocent. Georgia wants him dead."
Two days ago, the state of Georgia issued a death warrant in the case of Troy Anthony Davis, requiring the state's Department of Corrections to execute him by lethal injection between July 17 and 24.
There's overwhelming evidence that Davis did not commit the murder for which he has been sentenced to die. But Georgia's machinery of death is grinding ahead anyway, despite pleas for mercy from a growing number of voices including Amnesty International and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu.
Late on the night of Aug. 19, 1989, Davis got into a fight with a man outside a Burger King next to the Greyhound bus station in Savannah. A 27-year-old cop named Mark Allen MacPhail, moonlighting at the station as a security guard, ran to the scene and was shot to death.
No murder weapon was ever found, and no physical evidence made it to trial. But Davis - a 20-year-old tough known on the streets as RAH, for "rough as hell," was convicted of the grisly killing and sentenced to death on the strength of nine witnesses who claimed they saw him do it or heard him confess to the crime after the fact.
Six of the nine witnesses have since recanted their testimony, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A witness named Antoine Williams, who originally testified that he saw Davis pull the trigger, signed a sworn statement in 2002 that he had "no idea what the person who shot the officer looks like," and now says he was pressured by cops to finger Davis.
But none of these facts can change Davis' sentence, thanks to the federal Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which puts a time limit on when evidence can be admitted in state death penalty cases.
Davis didn't have the aggressive legal help needed to round up witnesses in time: Georgia is the only state in the union that doesn't guarantee Death Row prisoners a lawyer during crucial points in the appeals process.
Those who want to help save Davis' life - a commutation would still leave him in prison without parole - should write a short note to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles and send it to Amnesty International, 730 Peachtree St., Suite 1060, Atlanta, Ga. 30308. The letter can be faxed to (404) 876-2276.