Bill Would Provide Critical Options to Death Row Inmates with New Evidence of Innocence
Laura Moye, director of Amnesty International's Death Penalty Abolition
Campaign, made the following comments today following introduction of HR 3986,
the "Effective Death Penalty Appeals Act.":
"We are grateful to Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga. for his leadership in addressing
the serious issues that can prevent death row inmates from establishing a strong
claim of innocence. When a person facing execution has strong evidence of his
innocence, he should have ample opportunity to bring those claims back into a
court of law. The law as it stands today is flawed in this respect. Rep.
Johnson's bill would ensure that death row inmates have the opportunity to
present newly discovered evidence of innocence.
Given that 139 people have been wrongfully convicted and sent to death row in
the last three decades in the United States, it is especially important that
lawmakers take a close look at the flaws in a system that irreversibly takes
human life. Amnesty International believes the death penalty should be
abolished; this would be the best way to ensure that innocent people are not
executed. But we hope that lawmakers on various sides of the debate can find
common ground on the issue of innocence. "
Georgia prisoner Troy Davis, who faced execution three times despite having
strong claims of innocence, faced a difficult legal battle in presenting his
innocence claims due to the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of
1996, which limited his ability to appeal his case in federal courts. This bill
would help prisoners with similar cases.
Davis, who has always maintained his innocence, has been on
death row since 1991. Last year, he came within two hours of execution, but the
U.S. Supreme Court ruled in August that he should be allowed a new hearing to
establish his innocence.
Davis was convicted in 1991 of killing police officer Mark
Allen MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia, in 1989. No murder weapon was produced at
trial, nor any physical e
vidence linking Davis to the crime. Seven of nine witnesses against him
later recanted or changed their initial testimonies in sworn affidavits.