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

Report
February 1, 2007

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

    • Thomas Gladish, Richard Greer, Ronald Keine and Clarence Smith were exonerated in 1976 in New Mexico two years after being sentenced to death. A newspaper investigation uncovered perjury by the prosecution’s key witness, perjured identification given under police pressure, and the use of poorly administered lie detector tests.
    • Earl Charles was sentenced to death in Georgia in 1975 and was on death row for three years before being exonerated. At his trial, two eyewitnesses identified him as the murderer. However, it was later revealed that the police had used suggestive photo line-up techniques and not revealed that the eyewitnesses had pointed to others in the line-up as possible suspects.(15)
    • Larry Hicks was acquitted at a retrial in 1980, two years after being sentenced to death in Indiana. At the retrial, evidence showed that eyewitness testimony that had been used against him at the original trial had been perjured.
    • Anthony Brown was acquitted at a retrial in Florida in 1986. Three years earlier he had been sentenced to death on the basis of evidence from a co-defendant who received a life sentence. At the retrial, the co-defendant admitted that his original testimony had been perjured.
    • Neil Ferber was released in 1986, almost four years after he was sentenced to death in Pennsylvania. The state declined to retry him after, among other things, it emerged that a jailhouse informant had given perjured testimony at the first trial.
    • Timothy Hennis was acquitted at a retrial in North Carolina in 1989, three years after being sentenced to death for murder. At the retrial, the defence discredited the witnesses who had testified at the original trial and pointed to a neighbour of Hennis who could have been responsible for the crime.
    • Charles Smith was acquitted in 1991 in Indiana, eight years after being sentenced to death. At the retrial, the defence presented evidence that witnesses at his original trial had given perjured testimony.
    • Federico Macias was sentenced to death in Texas in 1984 on the basis of the testimony of a co-defendant and jailhouse informants. His conviction was overturned, a grand jury refused to indict him again because of lack of evidence. He was released in 1993.
    • Walter McMillian was released in Alabama in 1993, six years after being sentenced to death. His conviction was overturned after it was shown that three of the state’s witnesses had given perjured testimony.
    • Ronald Williamson was released in 1999. He was sentenced to death in Oklahoma in 1987. Among other things, his trial lawyer had failed to question the motive of a jailhouse informant who alleged that Williamson had confessed to the murder.
    • Steve Manning had charges against him dropped in 2000. He had been sentenced to death in Illinois in 1993 on the basis of the word of a jailhouse informant who testified that Manning had confessed to him in jail.
    • Charles Fain was released in August 2001 after charges against him were dropped. He had been sentenced to death in Idaho in 1983. The evidence against him included the word of two jailhouse informants, who said that Fain had confessed to the murder.
    • Joseph Amrine was released in Missouri in 2003, 17 years after being sentenced to death for murder on the basis of the testimony of fellow inmates, who later recanted their testimony.(16)
    • Alan Gell was acquitted in North Carolina in 2004, six years after being sentenced to death. At his retrial, the defence presented evidence that the state’s two key witnesses had lied at the original trial.

In addition, a number of prisoners have been executed in the USA since 1977 despite serious doubts about their guilt. In some of these cases, the doubts centred on the reliability of witness testimony. For example: