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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Justice Betrayed - Updates on Justice for Officer Mark McPhail

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Today I am questioning why we even have a Court system and a pre-set appeals process for death penalty cases here in GA. The Georgia Board of Pardon and Paroles announced today that they are going to hear witnesses in convicted cop killer Troy Davis' appeal for clemency.

"...will hold a hearing that day to listen to 14 witnesses - some of whom have recanted testimony used to implicate Davis for the 1989 murder of a Savannah police officer and others who have come forward with information pointing the finger at another potential shooter. The parole board will dispatch its support staff to interview a 15th witness, who is serving time in a Georgia prison."

But these witnesses have already been heard according to the decisions from the State and Federal Appeals Courts...

State Habeas Corpus Petition (1994-1997)
The state habeas corpus court noted “from a review of the record that many pieces of evidence supporting a finding that Coles was the shooter or highlighting inconsistencies in the testimony of the witnesses who identified Davis as the shooter were indeed presented to the jury during Davis’ trial. (cite omitted). The jury, in its rightful role as finder of fact during the trial, was responsible for evaluating the credibility of the witnesses and determining whether the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Davis shot and killed Officer McPhail. This court, although acting now as the finder of fact in this habeas proceeding, cannot supplant the role of the jury and find based on its own review of the record that the jury should have concluded that the state did not carry its burden at Davis’ trial. The core purpose of the writ of habeas corpus would not be served by such a presumptuous usurpation of the jury’s deliberative process. This court is limited to evaluating whether Davis’ rights were properly protected in the context of his jury trial.” (State habeas corpus order of September 5, 1997, denying relief, page 41).

Federal Habeas Corpus Petition (2001-2004)
In its order denying relief, the federal habeas corpus court denied Davis a federal evidentiary hearing stating that, “this Court finds that because the submitted affidavits are insufficient to raise doubts as to the constitutionality of the result at trial, there is no danger of a miscarriage of justice in declining to consider the claim.” (Federal habeas corpus order of 5/13/04, p/ 25.)

And if holding another hearing in this 18 year old case wasn't enough, the Board has decided to re-check the ballistics...

The parole board, in a letter sent this week by its attorney Tracy D. Masters, also is asking Davis' lawyers to allow the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to re-do ballistics tests that played a role in his prosecution.

I checked the law in GA and I am flabbergasted. According to state law...

"The Parole Board has the sole constitutional authority to commute, or reduce, a death sentence. Only after an inmate appears to have exhausted all appeals and other judicial avenues of relief will the Parole Board consider granting a commutation to a death-sentenced inmate."

WHY even bother having a trial with years of appeals if the Board of Pardons and Parole can re-try the case all over again? All these years and all the expense for what? For a board of 5 people to usurp the judicial system and serve as judge & jury?

Will witnesses that can testify to the guilt of Davis be allowed to testify in front of the Board? Will those with recanted testimony be placed under oath and at risk for perjury when they appear before the board? What about Victim Impact Statements - can Officer McPhail's family testify in front of the Board.

Interestingly the GA Parole Board touts itself as leading the cause of victim's rights...

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles has been long recognized for its leadership role in the advocacy of victims rights. The Parole Board continues to give the highest priority and greatest compassion to those citizens who are most affected by crime — the innocent victims and their survivors.

Pardon me while I go puke into the trash can. THIS is advocating victim's rights? More like advocating criminal's rights.

I am at a loss for words. Troy Anthony Davis was convicted by a jury of his peers. He was sentenced to death. Davis exhausted all his court appeals. But now he essentially gets another "mini-hearing" and another chance to avoid the court ordered punishment. It's just too damned bad that Officer Mark Allan McPhail didn't get the same chance before Davis put a bullet into his chest and then in his face.

BTW - the Catholic Church is claiming the stay of execution by the Board was due to the letter from the Pope. That is hard to believe since the letter was sent to the Governor and not made public until after the hearing.

Other Posts about this case:
The Vatican and the Cop Killer
Where Are the Cries for Justice for Officer Mark Allan McPhail? - UPDATED Pardon and Parole Board Delays Justice

7/26/07 1610... State Rep Eric Johnson has weighed in on the matter and feels the same as I do...
"The jury and the courts have spoken and addressed the credibility of the witnesses and analyzed the evidence," Johnson said in a prepared statement. "The U.S. Supreme Court has even refused to weigh in. The Board of Pardons and Paroles needs to let this sentence be carried out. I have expressed my position to the chairman."

"The anti-death penalty crowd is in full throttle, but they don't care about justice, the victim or the process. And, if witnesses are flip-flopping like a pancake on a griddle, then somebody needs to throw them in jail."

'Bout time someone in the State stood up and said it like it needed to be said.

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