A reader comments:
This post utterly fails to address whatsoever the unique, extremely rare, and voluminous and exhaustive opportunities Davis was given to appeal a jury verdict determined beyond a reasonable doubt. It ignores the appeals process, the applicable standards of review, the fact he was given an entirely separate evidentiary hearing which concluded the alleged “new” evidence was largely smoke and mirrors.
You are right, the post did not address these things. I don’t think there is any question that ‘the applicable standards of review’ were followed in an exhaustive effort by all concerned. The legal process was observed.
I am ambivalent on the death penalty. But this case was decided based on circumstantial evidence, witnesses who later recanted and without physical evidence linking Davis to the murder. Davis may or may not have been innocent. One of those recanting testimony may have been the killer. From what I’ve read, two killings with a .38 revolver occurred the night of the shooting and .38s are common. One the other hand, the prosecutor didn’t call an important witness back to testify on behalf of the defense. This was puzzling and may have indicated problems with the defense.
This case was certainly chosen to be publicized (politicized) by anti-death penalty advocates. Death row inmates have been freed on DNA evidence, but that may not be enough ‘reason’ for the Supreme Court to once again hear a case on the constitutionality of capital punishment.
If the strategy of anti-death penalty advocates is to find a case in which it can be confirmed that an ‘innocent man’ is put to death, I don’t understand why this one would be considered. Without Davis getting a new trial in which he was found innocent, can a case be made that an ‘innocent’ man died? Maybe a ‘possibly innocent’ man. But the Georgia officials were careful to dot their ‘i’s. And if Davis were given another trial and found not guilty, then the anti-death penalty lobby wouldn’t have a case to bring to the Supreme Court.
My own belief is that the number of death row inmates released on DNA evidence is enough for the Supreme Court to overturn capital punishment. I’m not a lawyer but this is a question of policy and public consensus. There may be no way to ‘prove’ the death of an innocent man other than DNA evidence. But the gates of hell would justifiably open for any court that orders such a test after an execution.