A New Hope?

June 4, 2009

Nearly twenty years ago Troy Davis was convicted of killing a Georgia police officer. As has become well known, the case against him has grown weaker and weaker as seven of the prosecution’s nine witnesses have recanted their testimony, many saying that they were coerced by police. Davis’ latest stay of execution has now expired, after his application for a second habeas petition was denied, preventing him from presenting new evidence.

But late last year, the Chatham County, Georgia (the county in which Troy Davis was convicted) elected a brand new District Attorney named Larry Chisholm, who successfully campaigned on a platform to “increase the sense of fairness” in the office. If these are truly his intentions, a great way to start would be for him intervene on behalf of Troy Davis to ensure that an innocent man is not executed based on false information.

This case could be monumental in shaping the career of the new DA.  It seems clear from out here that intervening on behalf of Troy Davis would be seen as a courageous act that he could point to with pride for the rest of his political life.   But inside Chatham County, where there are powerful forces pulling him in different directions, the decision is not quite so easy.  Larry Chisolm is the first African American DA in the history of Chatham County, a county in the Deep South with a long history of racial division.  So any decision in a case involving an African American convicted of killing a white police officer, however dubious the evidence now seems, will be extremely difficult and politically charged.

Chisholm’s intentions in this case are as yet unclear. He has stated that he will not move forward with the trial until all of Davis’ appeals are exhausted, and a remaining “original” habeas petition is sitting at the US Supreme Court, reportedly due to be considered by the end of this month.  But DA Chisolm could at any time decide to re-open this tainted case, to take a closer look and find out what really happened that Summer night in Savannah almost 20 years ago.  It is important for DA Chisholm to hear from citizens across the country that re-opening this case will be the right choice.  You can take action right now to encourage DA Chisolm to do the right thing!