Hundreds of onlookers, mostly from outside of the city, came to Savannah last week to support death row inmate Troy Anthony Davis and the family of slain Savannah Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail Sr.
Benjamin Jealous, the national president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; and Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA, were the two most prominent leaders attending the evidentiary hearing. Cox and Jealous predicted that the outcome of the hearing might have far reaching implications for the U.S. criminal justice system.
Chief Willie Lovett spoke on behalf of the MacPhail family. “Twenty years, he said, is a long time to be denied justice.”
U.S. District Court Judge William T. Moore Jr.’s decision could change the way U.S. courts weigh eyewitness testimony in criminal cases. No weapons were confiscated by police in the August 1989 Davis case. DNA evidence has not been introduced to the court linking Davis to the incident. Davis has been on death row since 1991.
Moore asked lead attorneys Stephen Marsh for the defense and assistant Georgia Attorney General Beth Burton to answer legal questions in writing before he considers the case. He gave them until July 7 to state their positions about the court’s authority to decision something the highest court has not. Then, he said, his decision “won’t be delayed.”
Some of the highlights of the two-day evidentiary hearing, included testimony by Antoine Williams, a limo driver on the night of the shooting, who said he couldn’t read or write. He said, he pointed out Davis in the courtroom because the local prosecutor at the time told him to do so.
Other witnesses, who admittedly have criminal convictions, said they were afraid of the police and they were ordered to name Davis as the shooter.
The defense did not call Sylvester “Red” Coles, who was with Davis on the night MacPhail was fatally wounded. Two witnesses testified that they thought Coles had killed the officer but the defense lawyers say they could not contact him when they called him to court via subpoena.
The overall theme of the Davis defense was that the seven of the nine witnesses who recanted their testimony in favor of Davis said they did not tell the truth during the original case because they feared the local police.
Prosecutors called more than a dozen police officers, both black and white, who denied claims that intimidated witnesses in the case. Tina A. Brown is a veteran freelance
journalist based in Savannah. For
more coverage of the Davis hearing
check out her blog at www.crookedroadstraight.