A Tragedy in Georgia: Troy Davis Executed
Last Wednesday, September 21, 2011, was a tragic day for the American criminal justice system. On that day, at 11:08 p.m., the state of Georgia executed Troy Davis despite substantial evidence of his innocence.
Troy Davis lost his life, but his fight for justice goes on. In the wake of Davis’ execution, we’re calling on Georgia lawmakers to impose a moratorium on the death penalty in the state. Georgia’s criminal justice system is simply too broken to allow another lethal injection to go forward. Will you join us? Take 30 seconds to send a letter right now.
As you know, Davis served 20 years on Georgia’s death row before he was executed for shooting a Savannah police officer in 1989. His conviction bore many hallmarks of a wrongful conviction case. The Georgia Bureau of Investigations has conceded that the ballistics evidence used against Davis was unreliable, and one of the jurors who sat on the case said that if she had known about that she would not have voted to give Davis the death penalty.
Seven of the nine people who originally testified against Davis have recanted or contradicted their testimony. One of the remaining two witnesses who claim Davis was the shooter is considered by many to be the real perpetrator. The other — who had been up for twenty-four hours straight at the time he observed the shooting — reported on the night of the crime that he "wouldn’t recognize [the shooter] again." Yet two years later, this witness identified Troy Davis in an in-court identification that required him to simply identify the only African-American sitting at the defense table.
We’re honored and grateful for the outpouring of support we’ve received in the last few days. We want to work with you to help build a system where injustice like this doesn’t happen again.
Please take action today to call for an end to executions in Georgia and learn about reforms nationwide to prevent eyewitness misidentifications.
After 29 Years in Prison, Still Fighting for Exoneration
George Allen, Jr., (right) has served nearly three decades in Missouri prisons for a crime that evidence shows he didn’t commit. The Innocence Project and the Bryan Cave law firm filed a petition in court this week laying out the compelling evidence of Allen’s innocence and seeking his exoneration.
Allen’s case is an example of law-enforcement "tunnel vision" at its worst. Police picked him up for questioning in a 1982 St. Louis murder and rape case thinking he was someone else. Although they soon realized their mistake, they interrogated him anyway — despite the fact that he had struggled with mental illness and was intoxicated at the time. Allen eventually made a recorded confession, though on the recording it’s clear that officers are prompting him to give answers that fit the crime. The warning signs in this case don’t end there — police also withheld key forensic evidence pointing to Allen’s innocence and used highly suggestive hypnosis therapy to get a witness to corroborate a detail of Allen’s confession that she told police at the time she couldn’t recall.
New DNA testing and recently uncovered forensic evidence that was never disclosed to the defense prove Allen’s innocence. At trial, prosecutors relied on serology evidence of a semen stain found at the scene to connect Allen to the crime. This was the only physical evidence placing him in the crime scene. DNA tests now prove that the semen stain actually came from the victim’s boyfriend. Police withheld the fact that a second semen stain was recovered on the robe worn by the victim when she was attacked. Serology testing that was done before Allen was arrested excluded Allen as the source of this semen.
The papers filed this week call on a state judge to overturn Allen’s conviction and free him from prison immediately. Read more about Allen’s case and follow the Innocence Blog for updates on the case in the days and weeks ahead.
New Report: Improved ID Procedures Prevent Misidentifications
A groundbreaking field study of eyewitness identification procedures has found that lineup reforms supported by the Innocence Project are more accurate than methods used by most law enforcement agencies.
A preliminary report of a field study released on September 19th found that double-blind sequential lineups (where the administering officer doesn’t know which person is the suspect, and the witness views one person or photograph at a time) produce fewer mistaken identifications than lineup procedures that present all of the suspect photographs at once -- or simultaneously. Specifically, the report found that double-blind sequential lineups as administered by police departments across the country resulted in the same number of suspect picks but fewer "filler" (non suspect) picks than double-blind simultaneous lineups.
The study was conducted by the American Judicature Society, in collaboration with the Innocence Project, the Police Foundation and the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing. Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck told the New York Times that the results show that "we have the tools to reduce eyewitness error, to protect the innocent and help law enforcement apprehend the guilty."
Download the full report here.
Read more about eyewitness misidentification on our site.
Why I Give: A Donor Profile
Being tough on crime should mean pursuing justice, not getting convictions at all costs.
I'm a retired attorney, and during my career, I worked in Nigeria, the United Kingdom and the U.S. Before coming here I had received legal training and practiced briefly in Nigeria. When I graduated law school in this country, I saw the extreme zealotry on both sides of cases and decided that I couldn’t pursue a career in litigation in such an environment.
My professional values have been shaped by the jurisprudence and professional ethics of the British system of a time and place that I don’t know still exists, in which our obligation as lawyers is the pursuit of justice irrespective of which side you’re on. This philosophy has long gone missing in the American system, which has become so adversarial that fairness and justice have been jettisoned in favor of personal expedience. The work of the Innocence Project is essential to mitigate this loss and gross imbalance.
As Martin Luther King, Jr., said, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." The Innocence Project works to overturn terrible cases of injustice, but the impact of the work is much larger than DNA exoneration cases. By exposing the injustices of the system, the Innocence Project has shone light on the miscarriages of justice that are so rife in our system.
I support the Innocence Project because the organization’s work provides a critical counterbalance in an over-politicized state of affairs. To me, supporting the organization is not a choice; it's an imperative in a climate of out of control, railroading zealotry. That any innocent person has been executed and the threat persists obstinately to other innocent people is a nightmare I am unable to bear. It is incumbent upon all of us, custodians of the American dream and all the virtues this country stands for, to help stall and ultimately eradicate this travesty of justice. Who says you or I are beyond being its victim?
I donate monthly to the Innocence Project to demonstrate my ongoing commitment to the organization’s all too important work.
Join Ade by setting up a monthly donation today.