USA: ‘Where is the justice for me?’: The case of Troy Davis, facing execution in Georgia

February 1, 2007

USA: ‘Where is the justice for me?’: The case of Troy Davis, facing execution in Georgia

Monty Holmes’ pre-trial testimony was admitted at the trial without cross-examination possible due to his absence. Article 14.3(e) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides that any criminal defendant must be allowed, "in full equality", to be able "to examine, or have examined, the witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him". While Monty Holmes knowingly avoided testifying at the trial, if his pre-trial testimony and his absence from the trial were influenced by coercive tactics allegedly employed by the police, the state played a role in undermining the right of Troy Davis to a fair trial.

Jeffrey Sapp
Affidavit, 9 February 2003
Jeffrey Sapp testified that Troy Davis had told him that he had shot the officer in self-defence. In his affidavit, he stated:
"I remember when the officer got shot down at Burger King… The police came and talked to me and put a lot of pressure on me to say, ‘Troy said this’ or ‘Troy said that’. They wanted me to tell them that Troy confessed to me about killing that officer. The thing is, Troy never told me anything about it. I got tired of them harassing me, and they made it clear that the only way they would leave me alone is if I told them what they wanted to hear. I told them that Troy told me he did it, but it wasn’t true. Troy never said that or anything like it. When it came time for Troy’s trial, the police made it clear to me that I needed to stick to my original statement; that is, what they wanted me to say. I didn’t want to have any more problems with the cops, so I testified against Troy".

2. ‘Eyewitness’ testimony

Dorothy Ferrell
Affidavit, 29 November 2000
At the trial, Dorothy Ferrell, who was staying at a hotel near the Burger King at the time of the crime, identified Troy Davis as the person who had shot Officer McPhail, emphasising "I’m real sure, that that is him and, you know, it’s not a mistaken identity".

After the guilt/innocence phase of the trial had ended, the wife of Troy Davis’ defence lawyer received a telephone call from a woman who identified herself as Dorothy Ferrell, and stated that she had lied on the witness stand. The prosecution then revealed that Dorothy Ferrell had written a letter to District Attorney Spencer Lawton requesting "a favour" and his "help" with her own difficulties with the law. She was on parole at the time. She wrote in the letter: "Mr Lawton if you would please help me, I promise you, you won’t be making a mistake" [emphasis in original].

After this revelation, Dorothy Ferrell was recalled to the witness stand, outside of the presence of the jury. She denied having made the telephone call, but admitted to having written the letter. The judge then offered the defence the opportunity to cross-examine Dorothy Ferrell in the presence of the jury, but they did not do so, instead calling for a mistrial on the grounds that the prosecution had withheld information from the defence. The trial judge denied their motion for a new trial.

In her affidavit signed in November 2000, Dorothy Ferrell recalled that she had been staying in a hotel opposite the Burger King restaurant on the night of the shooting. She said that she heard a woman scream and gunshots. In her affidavit, she recalls seeing "more than two guys running away", but states that she did not see who the gunman was. After the crime, she was asked to go down to the police station, where she was made to wait until she gave a statement. The affidavit continues:
"I was real tired because it was the middle of the night and I was pregnant too… I was scared that if I didn’t do what the police wanted me to do, then they would try to lock me up again. I was on parole at the time and I had just gotten home from being locked up earlier that year.