Will Georgia Kill Again Despite Doubts?

October 3, 2011

Update Oct 4: A stay of execution has been granted to Marcus Ray Johnson. Superior Court Judge Willie Lockette has ordered that DNA evidence found last week by Albany police be evaluated. He will hold a follow up hearing in February, 2012.

Georgia is scheduled to execute Marcus Ray Johnson on Wednesday, October 5. This date appeared on the calendar the morning after the Peach State put Troy Davis to death despite unresolved doubts about his guilt.

As in the Troy Davis case, there is no physical evidence linking Johnson to the 1994 murder in Albany, Ga., of Angela Sizemore.  According to Johnson’s lawyers, his case was built on eyewitness testimony from individuals who did not even witness the crime but only placed Johnson with the victim in the hours before the murder.

Expert testimony about the problems with eyewitness identification evidence was not allowed at Johnson’s trial. According to the Innocence Project, 75 percent of wrongful convictions discovered by DNA testing have involved faulty witness identifications.

And while the Troy Davis case suffered for a lack of testable scientific evidence, there may be some in the Johnson case.  Last week Albany, Ga., police discovered a box with new, never-before-seen biological evidence that could allow DNA testing. Lawyers for Johnson filed “an Extraordinary Motion for New Trial Based on New Evidence Produced by Albany Police Department” on Friday.

Will Georgia officials show an iota of concern for the possibility of executing an innocent man in this case?  Or will they recklessly proceed with another execution, as they did with Troy Davis, despite serious and unresolved doubts about guilt?