Bob Barr: Georgia may be about to execute an innocent man

Bob Barr, the former Libertarian presidential candidate and Georgia congressman, has an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times:

There is no abuse of government power more egregious than executing an innocent man. But that is exactly what may happen if the United States Supreme Court fails to intervene on behalf of Troy Davis.

Mr. Davis is facing execution for the 1989 murder of an off-duty police officer in Savannah, Ga., even though seven of the nine witnesses have recanted their testimony against him. Many of these witnesses now say they were pressured into testifying falsely against him by police officers who were understandably eager to convict someone for killing a comrade. No court has ever heard the evidence of Mr. Davis’s innocence.

After the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit barred Mr. Davis from raising his claims of innocence, his attorneys last month petitioned the Supreme Court for an original writ of habeas corpus. This would be an extraordinary procedure — provided for by the Constitution but granted only a handful of times since 1900. However, absent this, Mr. Davis faces an extraordinary and obviously final injustice.

This threat of injustice has come about because the lower courts have misread the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, a law I helped write when I was in Congress. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee in the 1990s, I wanted to stop the unfounded and abusive delays in capital cases that tend to undermine our criminal justice system….

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12 comments Add your comment

[...] Galloway at the AJC’s Political Insider points us to an op-ed about longtime death row inmate Troy Davis in today’s New York Times by Bob [...]

The Snark

June 1st, 2009
3:27 pm

Only thirteen unbiased people have seen all the evidence: the jury and the trial judge. All thirteen of them agreed that Davis shot a policeman to death while he lay defenseless on a parking lot.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but unless you saw all the evidence, your opinion on guilt or innocence does not count.


June 1st, 2009
3:52 pm

It would be difficult to find 12 unbiased jurors, one unbiased journalist, nine unbiased members of the SCOTUS. Assuming, arguendo, that 12 people and a judge could displace all possible bias and prejudice, would it be possible that they could come the wrong conclusion based on perjured evidence (in this case testimony)? How about the Duke lacrosse trial? What if that had gone to trial and the “unbiased” jurors had not been allowed to see the exculpatory evidence Nifong (the prosecutor) tried so hard to keep from the public and potential jurors? They wouldn’t have seen “all the evidence.” Never assume that juries always get it right (cf all the rape convictions that have been overturned via the “Innocence Project” and similar efforts), that eyewitnesses are infallible, and that our competitive, adversarial legal system works every time. Wouldn’t it be better to spend some extra money to make sure an innocent person doesn’t get all crispy?


June 1st, 2009
4:51 pm

I detest john lewis, but if 7 of 9 witnesses recanted their testimony, georgia, in good conscious cannot execute Troy Davis. Although, that has never stopped georgia or texas. I say he gets another trial.


June 2nd, 2009
12:31 pm

Having served on a capital murder case, 20 years ago, I think I am able to offer a little insight that most have never experienced. Each jury member was truly independent of each other and formed their opinions without regard to pressures from the group. It is difficult to believe that the jury was biased in any manner.

i'm innocent

June 2nd, 2009
1:22 pm

thats what everyone in prison says…only Andy Dufrain was innocent.


June 2nd, 2009
2:32 pm

I think I’ll wander over to Marks grave and see if I can get him a new hearing. I bet he’d like to see his son again. But then the Ajc has never cared about Mark. In their eyes the more dead cops the betterEnter your comments here


June 2nd, 2009
4:19 pm

No one of good conscience wants to exonerate the killer of a policeman or otherwise. The truth is that so many people have recanted their testimony and so much that has not been revealed that this man deserves a new trial. If he”s convicted after that so be it. He deserves an unbiased fair trial without a rush to justice.


June 2nd, 2009
6:43 pm

Hang him, let god and the devil decide where he goes, they know the truth.


June 3rd, 2009
12:39 am

Andy, glad to hear that you had jury experience. It’s reassuring that people are willing to do their civic duty, both 20 years ago and today. The point earlier was that it is indeed difficult to strip humans of their passions, prejudices, predispositions, and biases. Rules that exclude evidence (for example hearsay rules, or a judge’s determination that something is more prejudicial than probative) automatically prevent a jury from seeing “all the evidence,” on the basis of one person’s opinion, without knowledge of the jury. Perjured or incorrect evidence can easily yield the wrong result. Again, see vacated findings of guilt for what used to be a capital crime, rape. And, given that other posters have alluded to the movies, “Tom” Robinson was convicted despite the blatantly perjured testimony of Mayella Ewell, to cite a classic. The only thing worse than killing a police officer is having his death go to kill a potential innocent he was sworn to protect.


June 3rd, 2009
7:32 am

“In their eyes the more dead cops the better”

A dead cop is no more special than a dead citizen. Cops are NOT your friends, cops are not
special. They knew the turf when they took the ‘oath’.

Reformed Bulldog Fan

June 3rd, 2009
9:35 am

This trail is too flawed. The jurors made their decision is good conscience, but now the “witnesses” are recanting. There must be a new trial to try to get at the truth. Executing this man would be a terrible injustice with so many questions unanswered. I, too, served on a murder jury. It was a difficult and very stressful process. Juries do not take this kind of thing lightly. If I had served on this jury with so many questions coming out now, I would want the state to retry the man. If the next jury deems him guilty, then so be it.