Sunday, October 5, 2008

U.S. Supreme Court Decision on Hearing for Troy Davis Scheduled for Today

When the U.S. Supreme Court meets Monday to decide Troy Anthony Davis’ fate, its nine justices face a fairly straightforward question: Is there sufficient doubt about Davis’ guilt to warrant further scrutiny of his case?

Davis needs four justices to vote “yes.” Otherwise, his execution, halted by the high court less than two hours before it was to be carried out Tuesday evening, will be rescheduled. The court is expected to announce its decision by Oct. 6.

The high court’s granting the stay at such a late hour, while not unprecedented, indicates the case has the justices’ interest, court watchers said.

“The court can grant a stay and then refuse to hear a case, but they don’t issue the stay lightly,” said Thomas Goldstein, a Washington lawyer who specializes in arguing cases before the high court. “They are thinking about it hard.”

The stay infuriated the family of slain Savannah Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail. They had traveled Tuesday to the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson to witness the execution. But it sent Davis’ family and supporters, who arrived at the prison in a church bus to stage a protest, into a jubilant frenzy.

Davis sits on death row for the Aug. 19, 1989, murder of MacPhail, a 27-year-old officer shot dead after he responded to the wails of a homeless man being pistol whipped in a Burger King parking lot. The former Army Ranger and father of two, working off-duty as a security guard, did not have time to draw his gun before being shot three times.

Davis was convicted with scant physical evidence: no DNA, no fingerprints, no murder weapon.

Since the 1991 trial, seven of nine key witnesses who testified against Davis, 39, have recanted their testimony. These include trial witnesses who testified they saw what happened, as well as witnesses who testified Davis told them he killed MacPhail. More witnesses have come forw