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Witnesses, case investigators testify

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - A probation officer and six officers with the Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department testified Thursday at the second day of a hearing for Troy Davis.

Davis was convicted in 1991 of the shooting death of Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail in August 1989.

MacPhail, while working an off-duty security job, was shot when he responded to cries for help from Larry Young, a homeless man who was being harassed by Sylvester Coles over the beer he was carrying, according to court documents. Witnesses testified at the time that Davis was also harassing Young and that he began to pistol whip the homeless man.

Lt. Greg Ramsey, the lead investigator, first talked about Monte Holmes's affidavit. Holmes said Davis shot MacPhail, but has since recanted, court records show.

Ramsey also interviewed Sylvester "Red" Coles on Aug 19, 1989. Coles said he was at the pool hall and got into an argument with Larry Young and that Darrell "D.D." Collins and Davis were there.

Young bought some beer and Coles was trying to get beer from Young, he told Ramsey at the time. Coles said in his interview with Ramsey that Davis showed up and started hitting Young in the head with a pistol.

Valerie Gordon, a witness, testified that Coles T-shirt was yellow, but every other witness to the MacPhail shooting said the shooter's T-shirt was white.

Dorothy Farrell, another witness, picked Davis out of a lineup and said, "I was sure of it. I was sure it was him."

The defense pointed out that neither Collins nor Coles were ever in the lineup.

"We did the best we could do with what we had," Ramsey said.

The defense also asked Farrell if she saw Davis somewhere else before she picked him out of the lineup because there had been a lot of news coverage about the case.

Farrell said she hadn't seen anything in the newspaper, but she did see on the news Davis coming out of the police department before she went to see the lineup.

Antoine Williams, a witness, said he also saw a picture of Davis in the news before he picked him out of the lineup.

Ramsey said he searched area of the shooting with Collins and Coles and nothing was found.

Ramsey said there was a shooting at the Cloverdale apartment complex earlier that day of the Macphail shooting in 1989. He said that Michael Cooper was shot there and named Davis as the man who had shot him to Ramsey.

During the investigation, it was originally found that the bullets from the apartment shooting and the MacPhail shooting did likely come from the same gun, according to Ramsey. But a 2007 GBI report stated that the bullets probably were not fired from the same gun.

"If you had known the bullets didn't match, would your investigation [have] changed?" a defense attorney asked Ramsey.

The judge then stopped the questioning in Thursday's hearing and said an answer to that question would have been hearsay.

Ramsey testified that stories told by Collins and Coles were very similar. Both had different testimony into Davis shooting MacPhail.

Many witnesses described the shooter as wearing a white T-shirt, dark shorts and a hat.

"I can remember the guy in the white shirt because the way he shot the police," said Harriett Murray during Troy's earlier trial. She was Young's girlfriend at the time and a witness who is now deceased.

Witnesses told Ramsey that the handgun Coles had, had a much longer barrell than the one they saw the shooter use when MacPhail was killed.

"Did you rush to find a suspect in this case because it was one of your own who died?" a defense attorney asked Ramsey.

"I was in no rush to find one person who did it because I wanted to make sure I found the man who did do it," he said.  

Scpl. Ann Sosbe, who took a report from Cooper after he was shot, said Cooper told her at the time that he didn't recognize the shooter, who was possibly using a .38 caliber gun. He also told her the shooter was a black male wearing a white T-shirt, black hat and shorts.

Chamlish Stephens, Cooper's probation officer, testified that Cooper said Davis shot him.

Capt. Dean Fagerstrom, a detective investigating the case, testified that he talked to Murray about and hour after murder when there were no suspects.

Murray told Fagerstrom that she saw Young get hit, and that the guy who hit him was wearing a white shirt and pants or jeans and was between 24 and 30 years old.

Fagerstrom said he wasn't leading any witnesses or threatening them into saying who did it because at the time of this questioning there were no suspects. He recalled going to Davis's mom's house to look for evidence, and a pair of black shorts were found in the washing machine with some other clothes.

The defense team said that all the witnesses had wildly inconsistent descriptions of the shooter.  

Greg Prileou, who interviewed Antoine Williams, also testified. Williams told police in 1989 that he saw from his car MacPhail's shooting and was able to describe the suspect.

Benjamin Gordon, a limo driver who was in the area at time of the shooting, said Coles was the shooter, but wasn't sure 20 years ago.

Steve Sweeney, who was as sergeant for the Savannah Police Department at the time, took the stand. He spoke to Collins six days after the shooting, according to court documents. Collins told Sweeney the gun was chrome.

Levon Olgesby, an investigator who spoke to Holmes and Jeffrey Sapp, also testified.

Sapp told police that Davis told his friends about the murder the next day, according to court documents. Sapp testified that he knew Davis and had a brief conversation with him, but that Davis never mentioned shooting MacPhail.

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