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Troy Davis and the Georgia Parole Board


The Georgia Parole Board issued this press release Monday on the Troy Davis case. The full text is also quoted after the jump, in case they remove the page linked here.

It's good that they made an exception to their "no comment" policy, but they did not go far enough. In capital cases with claims of actual innocence, an explanation should be the rule, not the exception. Further, the explanation should go into detail as to why the board does not believe the inmate is actually innocent. The right way to do it was illustrated by Gov. Pete Wilson of California in the Thomas Thompson case. We appended this explanation to our brief in Calderon v. Thompson, 523 U.S. 538 (1998), and the Supreme Court noted it. See id., at 547-548, 552, 556.

The Georgia Board should do the same, as should the clemency authority in any case of this type. There aren't enough of them that this would be a significant burden, and it is very bad for public confidence in the system to have one side saturating the media with claims he is innocent while the people who properly decided that question are virtually mum on their reasons for rejecting it.

UPDATE. The CJLF brief in Calderon v. Thompson is available here.

Atlanta , GA - The Parole Board does not generally comment on death cases it has considered for clemency. However, the Troy Davis case has received such extensive publicity that the Board has decided to make an exception.
Davis’ attorneys have argued that the Board should grant him clemency because a number of the witnesses against Davis changed their earlier statements to the police and their testimony at the trial. Moreover, the attorneys have brought forward other people who now claim to have information that raises doubt as to the guilt of Davis.
Because of these claims, the Parole Board stopped Davis’ execution last year. The Board has now spent more than a year studying and considering this case.
As a part of its proceedings, the Board gave Davis’ attorneys an opportunity to present every witness they desired to support their allegation that there is doubt as to Davis’ guilt. The Board heard each of these witnesses and questioned them closely.
In addition, the Board has studied the voluminous trial transcript, the police investigation report and the initial statements of all witnesses. The Board has also had certain physical evidence retested and Davis interviewed.
After an exhaustive review of all available information regarding the Troy Davis case and after considering all possible reasons for granting clemency, the Board has determined that clemency is not warranted.


Isn't it possible though, that if the parole board gives its reasoning, a new round of appeals could ensue? I think litigation would be invited, at the very least.

It may be that separation of powers would keep the judicial branch out of the business of reviewing a purely executive branch function, that being the consideration of whether to grant clemency. Moreover, the Parole Board decision may have no force in and of itself, but rather stands merely as a recommendation to the governor that clemency not be granted. Certainly, the judicial branch did not become involved when the currently incarcerated former governor of Illinois granted clemency to all on Illinois death row.

US Supreme Court granted a stay pending a writ of certiorari. How many bites at the apple is he going to get? And when is the Supreme Court going to cease being a "do as I say, not as I do" court when it comes to interfering with a state's ability to conduct executions after a full round of federal habeas.

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