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Davis gets new hearing

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By Christy Hutchings - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Troy Davis is getting yet another chance in the courts. The United States Supreme Court has ordered a Savannah Federal judge to listen to any evidence that Davis did not have during his 1991 trial, such as a hearing from the witnesses who are now recanting their initial statements.

Davis is on death row for the 1989 murder of Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not made a decision like this in more than fifty years and it's one that was by no means unanimous.

"Today, without explanation and without any meaningful guidance, this Court sends the District Court for the Southern District of Georgia on a fool's errand," wrote Justice Scalia.

Scalia, with the backing of Justice Thomas, goes on to say "Transferring this case to a court that has no power to grant relief is strange enough.  It becomes stranger still when one realizes that the allegedly new evidence we shunt off to be examined by the District Court has already been considered (and rejected) multiple times.  Davis's postconviction ‘actual-innocence' claim is not new," wrote Scalia in his dissenting opinion.

However, Justice John Paul Stevens, with the backing of Justice Ginsburg and Justice Breyer have a different view. "No court, state or federal; has ever conducted a hearing to assess the reliability of the score of postconviction affidavits, that if reliable, would satisfy the threshold showing for a truly persuasive demonstration of actual innocence," wrote Justice Stevens.

Justice Stevens goes on to say, "The substantial risk of putting an innocent man to death clearly provides an adequate justification for holding an evidentiary hearing."

Justice Sotomayor did not vote and we don't know how the other three justices voted, but we know at least two had to be in favor of sending this case to Federal Court.

Needless to say, both families have a lot to say about the decision.  The MacPhail's say they're frustrated. "I am so angry I can't even stand it right now," said Anneliese MacPhail, Mark MacPhail's mother.   

It's been almost 20 years since her son was murdered. Every time the family thinks they're one step closer to closure, something new pops up like Monday's decision. "I want it over. I want some peace," said Anneliese MacPhail.

MacPhail says she's tired of the appeals and even more so of the rallies. "You ask people individually, they don't even know what's going on.  They were told this is a death penalty case and that's what they're fighting against. About Mark, his case, they have no idea," said MacPhail.

Davis' sister Martina Correia says that's not the case. "This has just been about the truth. We've been seeking the truth in this case."

Correia says the truth is, Davis didn't kill MacPhail and this decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is what they've been fighting for all along. "We wanted people to have an opportunity to hear the witnesses and just go over the evidence and give them an opportunity to tell their stories of what happened. We felt like if they gave Troy an evidentiary hearing they would see there was so much doubt in this case that he should not be executed," said Correia.

Correia adds her heart goes out to the MacPhail's and she wants justice for them, but that justice isn't with Troy. "We're fighting for both of them," said Correia.

Davis' attorneys will now present his evidence to a federal judge in Savannah. If the judge does not rule in his favor he can appeal that ruling.  

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