Troy Davis: What Will Happen Next?

July 9, 2010

On Wednesday, lawyers for Troy Davis and the Georgia Attorney General filed briefs in response to a few questions posed by Judge William T. Moore, Jr. at the end of Davis’ June 23-24 evidentiary hearing.  A major issue the judge asked them to brief was how to interpret the “clearly establishes innocence” standard set by the U.S. Supreme Court when it ordered the hearing.

At the end of the hearing the judge made it clear that he wanted to move quickly.  We wouldn’t be surprised if he issued his ruling this month.  In his ruling, he will decide whether Troy Davis did or did not “clearly establish” his innocence, based on a legal determination of what “clearly establish” actually means.  Because Davis has already been convicted, there is no presumption of innocence and he will have to do more than just raise “reasonable doubts” about his guilt.  The burden is on Troy Davis to prove his innocence.  Therefore, we expect the “clearly establish innocence” standard to be quite high.

If the judge rules that Troy Davis did “clearly establish” his innocence, his sentence and possibly his conviction could be overturned.  The state could appeal the decision and the local DA could attempt to re-try him (though we can’t imagine what sort of case could be built at this point).  If Davis does win, it could significantly impact other cases, establishing that it is indeed unconstitutional to execute someone who is actually innocent, even if they had access to a “fair trial”.

If the judge rules that Troy Davis did not meet the high innocence standard, he would be at risk of a 4th execution date.  However, he would have an opportunity to appeal the decision and can ask for clemency from the state parole board.

The district court’s ruling will be incredibly momentous, either way.  Please stay tuned as Troy Davis is still not safe from execution.  While international human rights safeguards state that no one should face execution when there are any doubts as to the reliability of their conviction, this is not a legally established principle in the U.S. After listening to the witnesses testify in the hearing last month, it was clear to me that the doubts in Troy Davis’ case were deepened and certainly not resolved.  Please continue to educate people about the Troy Davis case and the broken system it represents.