Reps. John Lewis (GA-05) and Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-04) sent a letter today signed by more than 50 other members of Congress to the Georgia State Board of Pardons & Paroles, urging a stay of execution for death-row inmate Troy Anthony Davis and clemency in the form of a life sentence.
Since the initial trial in 1991, seven of the nine state witnesses against Davis have recanted their testimony and another man has been implicated as the shooter. During an evidentiary hearing in 2010, an eyewitness testified that he saw the alleged suspect shoot off-duty police officer, Mark McPhail. At least ten individuals have implicated this new suspect in the murder, casting significant doubt on the Davis conviction. There is no physical evidence tying Davis to the murder.
Both Lewis and Johnson along with thousands of concerned citizens--over 60,000 who have signed a recent petition--as well as many public figures, including Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop of Atlanta Wilton Gregory, William Sessions, former head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, President Jimmy Carter, activist Harry Belafonte, the European Parliament, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and others agree there is too much reasonable doubt in the case to proceed with execution. Rep. Johnson, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, has introduced the Effective Death Penalty Appeals Act, co-sponsored by Rep. Lewis, which would ensure that death row inmates have the opportunity to present newly discovered evidence of innocence.
"This is one of those exceptional instances where adhering to the letter of the law could lead the state of Georgia to commit a grave injustice," said Rep. John Lewis. "That is why it is important for people of goodwill to stand together and speak out in this case. The parole board has the power to intervene on the people's behalf to right a deplorable wrong, especially when there is so much room for doubt about this conviction. I believe the board seeks to do what is just and look forward prayerfully to the upcoming clemency hearing with the faith that justice will prevail."
"As a criminal defense attorney, judge and member of the House Judiciary Committee," said Rep. Hank Johnson," it disturbs me to my core that an unnecessary and unjust killing may take place. If we execute a man despite new evidence that casts doubt on his guilt, it shakes the public's faith in the integrity of justice in Georgia."
Lewis and Johnson have been fighting to stop Davis' execution since 2007. So convinced of the possibility of an unjust execution in this case, Rep. Lewis made a rare appearance before the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles in 2007 to speak on Davis's behalf. Also both members have visited Davis at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Savannah to speak to him personally about the case.
September 21 has been set as the execution date. Prayer vigils in Atlanta have been planned for September 19th, the date of Davis's clemency hearing, as well as a march from Woodruff Park to Ebenezer Baptist Church during the same week. The clemency hearing is the final appeal remaining in the case. This is Davis's fourth death warrant, the second since 2007. In April of this year, Davis lost his mother. At the funeral, his sister, Martina Correia, a stalwart advocate for Davis, said "she died of a broken heart," unable to face another execution date. Correia, a miraculous survivor of breast cancer, has recently suffered a health setback as well, but she is determined to appear at the clemency hearing.