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A Plea to the "Court of Last Resort"

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October 2, 2008

Today former FBI Director William Sessions wrote in the ACSBlog about the case of Troy Davis, and calls on the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Troy’s case. Troy was two hours from being executed when the high Court granted a stay of execution until it decided whether to hear his case. If the court declines to hear the case, the stay will be automatically lifted and the Georgia court can issue another death warrant for Davis’ execution.

Sessions is a member of the Constitution Project’s bipartisan Death Penalty Committee, and is a supporter of the death penalty. But he finds too many unresolved questions—including the quality of Troy’s legal representation, recanted witness statements and a complete lack of physical evidence linking Troy to the murder he’s convicted of—to advocate for Troy’s execution. In addition, Sessions objects to the Georgia courts’ procedural rules that bar the admission of testimony that could prove Troy’s innocence:

The courts considering Mr. Davis’s case properly administered procedural rules that prevent those courts from considering claims that were not raised at the right time or in the right manner. However, these rules can be too restrictive and can prevent the courts from dispensing justice. Presently, the rules can stop the courts from hearing claims of innocence, such as in Mr. Davis’s case. They can prevent the courts from hearing these claims even if the reason they were not properly raised was because of an overburdened lawyer with insufficient resources, such as in Mr. Davis’s case.

… I hope the Court will [hear Davis’ case] to avoid a miscarriage of justice. At the very least, Mr. Davis’ substantive claims must be examined. The political process has failed Mr. Davis. Let us hope that the court of last resort rises to the challenge.

The ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project has been advocating for Troy Davis to receive a new trial since the Georgia Supreme Court gave the go-ahead for his execution in early September. We expect to hear something from the Supreme Court next week, when its 2008 term begins.

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