Troy Davis case raising novel legal issues

Justice for Troy originally published by: ajc News
20th December 2009

Condemned inmate Troy Anthony Davis filed the legal equivalent of a Hail Mary when he petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a hearing on his innocence claims.

But in August, for the first time in nearly half a century, the nation’s highest court took a case filed directly to its docket that had not come up from a lower court on appeal. Once again, Davis, who sits on death row for killing an off-duty Savannah police officer in 1989, was spared execution. And since the reprieve, Davis’ lawyers say a new witness has come forward on his behalf.

“It was just stunning,” said U.S. Supreme Court historian Lucas A. “Scot” Powe, a professor of law and government at the University of Texas at Austin. “But I understand why the court did it. It was Davis’ last chance. He had exhausted all other possible appeals.”

The high court ordered a judge in Savannah to hold a hearing, receive testimony and make findings as to whether new evidence clearly establishes Davis’ innocence.

This assignment was given to U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr., who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994. Davis’ legal team recently provided Moore with a new affidavit from a Savannah woman who said a key prosecution witness, Sylvester “Redd” Coles, told her he was the one who actually shot and killed Officer Mark Allen MacPhail.

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