Good, and frankly rather surprising and unexpected, news on the case of Troy Davis has emerged. The Supreme Court has just ordered a new look at his case:
The Supreme Court on Monday ordered a federal trial court in Georgia to have a fresh look at the case of Troy Davis, who is on death row in state prison there for the 1989 murder of an off-duty police officer. The case has attracted international attention, and 27 former prosecutors and judges filed a brief supporting Mr. Davis.
Seven of the witnesses against Mr. Davis have recanted their testimony, and several people have implicated the prosecution’s main witness as the actual killer of the officer, Mark MacPhail.
The Supreme Court’s decision was unsigned and only a paragraph long, but was nonetheless highly unusual. It instructed the trial court to “receive testimony and make findings of fact” about whether new evidence clearly establishes Mr. Davis’s innocence.
Unfortunately Scalia basically used this as an opportunity to argue that innocent death row inmates have no actual right to not be put to death. Thankfully, Justices Stevens, Ginsburg and Breyer disagree with that ludicrous and terrifying assertion.
That said, presenting evidence which clearly establishes innocence is a much more difficult threshold to meet than presenting evidence that introduces reasonable doubt. Innocence can be very, very hard to prove, even when you are actually innocent. So, I’m glad that the court has given Troy Davis some kind of opportunity here. I also feel that it’s still unlikely to end well for him, despite the reasonable doubt that seems very likely to be present. And, of course, I can’t help but note my feeling that we wouldn’t be at risk of putting an innocent man to death at all if the government was not in the business of murdering convicts in the first place.
What do you think about the latest development? Can anyone who knows a lot more about the law than I do better explain what exactly this means for Troy and his case?