This week, the Supreme Court ruled that it will allow an evidentiary hearing for death row inmate Troy Davis to present evidence of his innocence. Troy Davis has been on death row since 1989 for killing a Georgia police officer. He has always maintained his innocence. Everyone from the Pope to Desmond Tutu has supported his battle. Since his conviction, 7 of the 9 eyewitnesses have recanted their stories. It is alleged the real killer is among the remaining 2. Is Troy Davis innocent? I don’t know whether he’s innocent or not. I do know the Supreme Court’s decision is a victory for all.
Chief Justice Roberts stated the possibility of executing an innocent man trumps everything else. It is a rare and bold move by the Supreme Court. Following the law to the letter would have denied Troy Davis this opportunity. Justice Scalia, a dissenter, maintains the Supreme Court has not ruled on forbidding the execution of a convicted person given a fair trial who is later able to prove his innocence. That makes no logical sense. Making even less sense was Justice Clarence Thomas. Justice Thomas called the decision a “fool’s errand”. If anyone is foolish, it is Justice Thomas. It is foolish and foolhardy to deny an opportunity to potentially avoid putting an innocent man to death.
So this is a major decision for Troy Davis and the Supreme Court. The shift in thinking seems to place the importance of life above death. The loss of even one innocent life is one too many. Nationwide death penalty statistics show 130 innocent people have been condemned to die. At least 14 states have abolished the death penalty due to the real risk of execution error. In Maryland, Kirk Bloodsworth served 8 years on death row before being exonnerated by DNA evidence.
Like Troy Davis, not all potentially wrongfully convicted death row inmates can prove their innocence through DNA evidence. They deserve the opportunity to prove their innocence in other ways.
Giving Mr. Davis an evidentiary hearing to prove his innocence, is not only the right thing to do. It’s the fair thing to do.