First, let me note that the current issue regarding Troy Davis is whether the Board of Pardons and Parole should grant clemency based on its own declared standard: “will not allow an execution to proceed in this state unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused.” This is not about guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, whether innocence is proven by clear and convincing evidence or whether Mr. Davis has exhausted all appeals. With that disclaimer, I present Rep. Holcomb’s letter:

Re: Request for Clemency from the Death Penalty for Troy Davis

Dear Members of the Parole Board:

I write to you to request clemency for Troy Davis so that he is not executed by the State of Georgia. I do not make this request lightly.

As a former prosecutor, I have the utmost respect for police officers and I mourn the death of Officer Mark McPhail and pray for his family.

Despite my admiration for the police and empathy for the victims of this crime, I must speak out against the writ of execution that has been issued in this case. As you know, seven of the nine prosecution witnesses have recanted their trial testimony. I find that astonishing and, quite frankly, appalling. These witnesses took an oath to tell the truth and now they say that they did not do so. Undoubtedly, the jury relied in part on the recanted testimonies to find Mr. Davis guilty.

I trust that you are familiar with the landmark decision issued recently by the New Jersey Supreme Court in State v. Larry Henderson. In this case, the Court issued an order requiring judges to more thoroughly scrutinize police identification procedures and other variables that affect eyewitness identification. These changes are designed to decrease the likelihood of wrongful convictions based on eyewitness accounts, about which the Court noted, “it is widely known that eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions across the country.”

The facts developed after Mr. Davis’ trial cast meaningful doubt on the finding of guilt. I cannot square the State’s continued reliance on the recanted evidence used to convict Mr. Davis with the finality of a death sentence. As such, I ask you to grant clemency. I would think we should all desire to avoid having the State of Georgia kill a man who may be innocent.

The American justice system is premised on the principle that it is better for a guilty person to escape than an innocent to suffer. Surely then, it is better for the Parole Board to grant clemency and spare death rather than allow the State of Georgia to kill Troy Davis.


4 Responses to Rep. Holcomb’s Letter re: Troy Davis

  1. DunwoodyDem says:

    Why the need to clarify? Holcomb’s saying what everybody should be saying. The issue is whether the Board can be certain that this man is guilty. The courts got themselves twisted in knots about procedural issues in the Davis case, and about whether it is possible to relitigate what the facts are after a jury has rendered its verdict. All of that is legal nicety and, though it matters to the courts, it shouldn’t matter a bit to the Board. The whole point of having an appeal to “clemency” is to give human decency a chance to prevail. To kill a potentially innocent man may be OK according to the technical legal rules of the death penalty, but it certainly offends the conscience.

    • Jen B. says:

      “Why the need to clarify?”
      Based on various discussions in the blogosphere, I believe some are confused as to the current state of this case.

      • griftdrift says:

        Some areas of the blogosphere seem intent on re-trying the case.

        • Steve Golden says:

          I don’t think anyone is intent on retrying a case, Grift. I’ll even accept the fact that he will never get another trial, and the “guilty” verdict will stand. But, like so many others have said, when 7 out of 9 “witnesses” have recanted their testimony, some even going out to say that the police influenced them to make such statements, there is DOUBT, nay, REASONABLE DOUBT that the man committed the crime. So, given that reasonable doubt, why are we condemning him to death? Why not life in prison? Hell, we’re not arguing for his innocence, we’re arguing against the use of the death penalty in this situation.