Monday, August 17, 2009

Davis Execution Stayed

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Supreme Court has stayed Troy Davis' execution to allow him to present new evidence (over a dissent by Scalia and Thomas). I've written about the case here -- virtually all of the witnesses have since recanted, alleging the police intimidating them into saying what they wanted to hear (namely, that Davis is guilty). The prosecutors, for their part, say the high levels of recantations are themselves suspicious and raise the specter of guilt-tripping by groups like Amnesty International. It's an argument I do not find compelling, and this is a textbook case of why the death penalty just isn't working in American society.

UPDATE: Judging by these posts from Orin Kerr and Kent Scheidegger, the Court's move here was unusual bordering on unprecedented. My understanding was that "actual innocence", on its own, has never before been considered a valid ground for Habeas review -- there needs to be some sort of irregularity at trial to hang the hat on. Here, though, we might be seeing a rather significant turn in the Court's jurisprudence. Stay tuned.

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