On the one-year anniversary of the execution of Troy Davis, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) called on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate growing concerns over prosecutorial and police misconduct in capital cases.
Suzanne Nossel, Executive director, Amnesty International USA, said: “Troy was executed despite a mountain of doubt about his conviction and allegations that witnesses were coerced by police. A year later, the stain of injustice continues to spread, with the death penalty used despite substantial concerns over prosecutorial overreach, wrongful conviction or misapplication of the law. The federal government must take action as case after case corrodes the credibility of U.S. criminal justice. The death penalty is the ultimate, irreversible human rights violation; we reject it under all circumstances. For it to be carried out in cases like Troy’s where the evidence has fallen apart, witnesses have raised doubts or there are credible allegations of government coercion is an affront to justice. The explosion of public outrage over the execution of Troy Davis reflected the public’s distrust in the U.S. criminal justice system, and this distrust has intensified rather than being allayed over the intervening year. This is a crisis of confidence, which must be addressed by the Justice Department by investigating key cases of alleged prosecutorial misconduct in death penalty cases.”
NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO, who had been active in Troy’s case for over a decade, said: “Last year the state of Georgia killed Troy Davis, an innocent man. Though he is not here, his memory lives on with us and fuels our fight to abolish the death penalty. Troy’s wrongful execution has changed the hearts of minds of millions and public support for the death penalty is now at an all-time low. We have heeded Troy’s request to not have the struggle for justice end with him — in the last year, we ended the death penalty in Connecticut and we are seeing momentum in Maryland and in California, where ending the death penalty is on the ballot.”
At a joint press conference with Troy Davis’ sister, Kimberly Davis, the two organizations also urged Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens and the state to carry out an “independent, impartial” investigation of the Davis conviction to restore public trust in the state’s justice system.
“Georgia ended my brother’s life despite serious doubt about the fairness of his conviction,” stated Kimberly Davis. Our family suffered a grave injustice when my brother was executed. The state can’t do anything to bring him back to us but I never want to see another family suffer this blow. My family wants Georgia to clear his name and take a hard look at the facts in this case, as Troy urged before he died. Justice has not been served.”
Troy Davis was executed a year ago on Sept. 21 for the death of police officer Mark Allen MacPhail, even through serious doubts plaguing his conviction were not resolved. The case drew unprecedented public outrage. His conviction hinged almost exclusively on the testimony of witnesses, most of whom later recanted, many alleging police coercion. Davis maintained his innocence even with his final words.
The two organizations said that death penalty cases where it is alleged that evidence was withheld or suspects were abused or coerced, as in Davis’ case, are not a “rare occurrence”. Amnesty International released documented evidence of allegations of government misconduct in ten capital cases from the last two years alone. In four of these cases, the prisoners were executed, despite allegations that evidence was withheld, or that witnesses were abused or coerced by police, as in the Davis case. (See separate document outlining 10 cases)
On February 15th of this year, Robert Waterhouse was executed in Florida despite the fact that evidence from the crime scene had been destroyed before it could be subjected to DNA analysis. This week in Missouri, a judge is reexamining evidence against Reggie Clemons, who has been on death row for 19 years. The Clemons case bears many striking similarities to the Davis case, with serious concerns raised about the fairness of Clemons’ conviction.
Since 1973, 140 people have been released from death rows due to evidence of wrongful convictions. Two-thirds of all countries have abolished the death penalty. The United States stands with governments like China and Iran in carrying out most of the world’s executions.
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