Troy Anthony Davis, convicted of murdering Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail in 1989 and sentenced to die for the crime, will get another day in court. In August, the Georgia Supreme Court agreed to hear what Davis' defense claims is new evidence exonerating him.
The first hearing in that process is scheduled for Tuesday, November 13, in Atlanta. WTOC will have a crew in the courtroom and will bring you the latest.
Here's the case summary prepared by the Georgia Supreme Court Office of Public Information:
TROY ANTHONY DAVIS V. THE STATE (S07A1758)
This is an appeal in a death penalty case, stemming from a Chatham County Superior Court's denial of Troy Davis's extraordinary motion for a new trial. At issue is whether the trial court erred by refusing to grant a new trial or at least hold a hearing on evidence that Davis's attorneys argue is new and proves his innocence.
FACTS: Davis was convicted in 1991 of the 1989 murder of Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail. In 1993, the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the conviction, and in 2000, it also affirmed another court's denial of his writ of habeas corpus, a court proceeding brought in the county where a prisoner is incarcerated to determine whether his imprisonment is illegal. Davis's federal habeas petition also failed. On Aug. 3, 2007, the state Supreme Court issued a stay of execution and granted his application for discretionary appeal, agreeing to hear arguments in the case.
The evidence at trial showed that Sylvester "Red" Coles asked Larry Young for a beer he had just purchased, then followed and harassed him when Young refused. Davis and Darrel "D.D." Collins joined in the confrontation near a bus station and Burger King. Trial witnesses identified Davis as the one who hit Young in the head with a handgun. All three fled when pursued by Officer MacPhail. Trial witnesses testified that Coles stopped when instructed to, that MacPhail ran past him, that Davis fired at the officer and then, as MacPhail lay on the ground, Davis fired the final shot with a smirk on his face.
ARGUMENTS: Davis's attorneys argue that the investigation was flawed by the assumption that Davis was guilty, and that Coles's photo was not even included in the photo lineup presented to witnesses. Since the trial, seven of the nine witnesses who implicated Davis have recanted their testimony, and four witnesses have implicated Coles. To support Davis's extraordinary motion for new trial, his attorneys have presented the following affidavits:
Gary Hargrove - is a new eyewitness who identifies Coles as the shooter;
Harriet Murray - consistent with what she told police prior to trial, says the shooter was the man arguing with the victim;
Anthony Hargrove, Shirley Riley, Darold Taylor - say Coles confessed to the shooting;
Tonya Johnson, Anita Dunham - say they saw Coles with a gun minutes after the shooting, and Johnson says she refused to help him hide the gun and he warned her not to tell police;
Daniel Kinsman - member of the military in a van at the Burger King who says the murder weapon had a "shiny finish" similar to the .38 Coles had;
Jeffrey Sapp, Kevin McQueen - say that when they testified at trial that Davis had confessed to them, they were lying;
Larry Young, beating victim, D.D. Collins, one of the three who'd confronted Young - recant their trial testimony in which they identified Davis as the one who struck Young in the head, now saying they were coerced by police;
Dorothy Ferrell, Antoine Williams - recant their trial testimony identifying Davis as the shooter, saying they could not identify the shooter but were pressured by police.
The attorneys argue that no state or federal court has previously considered Davis's innocence in light of the new evidence. They contend that under a 1980 Georgia Supreme Court ruling in Timberlake v. State, Davis's case meets the requirements for a new trial, including that the evidence came to light after trial and most importantly, the evidence would "probably produce a different verdict." They argue the trial court erred by finding that a procedural rule barred consideration of the recantations in this case, because none of the cases cited by the trial court involve multiple recantations, as this one does. They say that even if Davis's claim fails under Timberlake, the Georgia and U.S. Constitutions require a new trial under the due process prohibition against executing the innocent.
The State's lawyers respond that the post-trial statement of a witness saying his or her trial testimony was false is not cause for a new trial, and the only exception to this rule is if the testimony was pure fabrication. They say Davis has failed to meet all six of the requirements for a new trial defined by the Timberlake decision. The credibility of the affidavits is suspect, they argue, because Davis has not shown that his affidavits could not have been obtained earlier or presented earlier to the trial court. Any statements by Coles to third parties, they say, is inadmissible hearsay, and a federal court found that there was no coercion by police in this case, and that the alleged coercion was already presented to the jury at trial. Some of the affidavits merely repeated what the trial jury already heard; others were irrelevant because they come from witnesses who did not testify at the trial. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Davis's motion for a new trial. Finally, the State's attorneys argue, the trial testimony should be credited over the affidavit testimony which was extracted by defense counsel and presented only just before execution.
Attorneys for Appellant: Thomas Dunn, Jason Ewart, Philip Horton, Danielle Garten
Attorneys for Appellee: Spencer Lawton, Jr., District Attorney, David Lock, Chief Asst. D.A.
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