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Case Background

Click Here for the full report from Amnesty International.

Troy Davis was sent to Georgia’s death row in 1991 for the murder of Mark Allen MacPhail, a white police officer in Savannah, Georgia in 1989.


The conviction was not based on any physical evidence
The murder weapon was never found.  The prosecution relied on witness testimony.


7 out of 9 witnesses have recanted or contradicted their story

Many alleged coercion by the police.

Excerpts from their affidavits:

Troy Davis, Georgia Diagnostic & Classification Prison, Jackson, GA, 9-26-2009 
  • “[The police] were telling me that I was an accessory to murder and that I would … go to jail for a long time and I would be lucky if I ever got out, especially because a police officer got killed…I was only sixteen and was so scared of going to jail.”


  • “After the officers talkedto me,they gave me a statement and told me to sign it. I signed it. I did not read it because I cannot read … I was totally unsure whether he was the person who shot the officer. I felt pressured to point at him ... I have no idea what the person who shot the officer looks like.”


  • “The police came and talked to me and put a lot of pressure on me…. They wanted me to tell them that Troy confessed to me about killing that officer. The thing is, Troy never told me anything about it. I got tired of them harassing me …. I told them that Troy did it, but it wasn’t true.”


  • “[T]here was and is no doubt in my mind that the person who shot the officer had the gun in and was shooting with his left hand.”  Davis is right-handed.


One of the witnesses may be the actual murderer.
1 of the 2 witnesses who has not recanted has been implicated by 9 people as the murderer. 


Several factors have made it tough to appeal with the new evidence
Severe cuts to Georgia’s legal defense resources meant that two lawyers represented close to 160 people on death row, including Davis, when he needed critical work done for his appeals.  Also, in 1996, Congress passed the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which increased restrictions on appeals.  No court would hear the new evidence - the witness recantations.  Davis was turned down throughout his appeals, including at the US Supreme Court. 


Davis came within 23 hours of execution in July, 2007 and within 2 hours of execution on September 23, 2008.  The Georgia Supreme Court said it would consider his “extraordinary motion for a new trial” appeal in August, 2007 and held a hearing in November.  On March 17, 2008, the court rejected his appeal on “overly rigid” (dissenting Judge Sears) technicalities setting an impossibly high bar for the recantations to be considered. The US Supreme Court also rejected his request for consideration of an evidentiary hearing or new trial.  On April 16, 2009, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Davis' request for an evidentiary hearing to evaluate the new witness statements, but allowed him one final opportunity to petition the US Supreme Court.  On August 17, 2009, in response to Davis' final appeal, the US Supreme Court granted his request and ordered the Federal District Court in Savannah to hold an evidentiary hearing.  When this hearing takes place, it will be the first time the new evidence will be heard in court.