The following is an excerpt from the decision of the United States District Court, Southern District of Georgia, Judge William T. Moore, in the case In re Troy Davis, No. CV409-130, August 24, 2010. Footnotes have been omitted. The full decision (in PDF format) is available in two parts at these links: Part I and Part II.
D. Balancing of All of the Evidence
The burden was on Mr. Davis to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that no reasonable juror would have convicted him in light of the new evidence. In making this determination, the Court looks at all the evidence to make "probabilistic determination about what reasonable, properly instructed jurors would do. House, 547 U.S. at 537-38 (quoting Schlup, 513 U.S. at 329)
The Court begins with the evidence that proved Mr. Davis's guilt. As was explained above, the State provided three types of evidence: (1) eyewitness testimony regarding who was wearing the white and yellow shirts, and what actions the individual in each shirt took; (2) personal identifications of Mr. Davis as the shooter; and (3) secondhand confessions by Mr. Davis. (See Trial Transcript 1496-1502.) The State offered significant testimony on these points. The following witnesses identified Mr. Davis as the person in the white shirt: Harriett Murray (id. at 846, 850, 862-65) , Antoine Williams (id. at 959-64) , Steven Sanders (Id. at 979-83), Dorothy Ferrell (id. at 1020-21), Darrell Collins (id. at 1128) , and Eric Ellison (id. at 1216- 17) . Mr. Coles was placed in the yellow shirt by Larry Young (Id. at 805-06) and Valerie Coles Gordon (id. at 1162-63) . Four witnesses stated that the person in the white shirt murdered Officer MacPhail (Id. at 850, 959-60, 979, 1015) , and four directly identified Mr. Davis as Officer MacPhail's murderer (Id. at 862-65, 963-64, 982-83, 1021) . In addition, Harriett Murray (Id. at 847-50), Antoine Williams (Id. at 960-64), and Steven Sanders (Id. at 979-82) indicated that the individual in the white shirt both assaulted Larry Young and murdered Officer MacPhail. Finally, Kevin McQueen (Id. at 1231-32) and Jeffery Sapp (Id. at 1251-52) related secondhand confessions from Mr. Davis.
Mr. Davis's proof to the contrary at trial included the testimony of Joseph Washington, who identified Mr. Coles as the individual who shot Officer MacPhail. (Id. at 1342-43.) Tayna Johnson testified that she observed Mr. Coles at the Cloverdale party on August 18, 1989 wearing a white shirt. (Id. at 1362- 63.) She also testified that she observed Mr. Coles acting nervous after the MacPhail shooting. (Id. at 1361.) Jeffery Sams testified that he saw Mr. Coles, not Mr. Davis, with a firearm the night of the MacPhail shooting. (Id. at 1377-81.) Mr. Davis's mother, Virginia Davis, testified that Mr. Davis left the house for the Cloverdale party wearing a multi-color shirt and the Mr. Davis could not have spoken to Mr. Sapp the afternoon of August 19, 1989. (Id. at 1389, 1411-12.) Finally, Mr. Davis took the stand in his own defense. He denied shooting at Mr. Ellison's car during the Cloverdale party (Id. at 1417- 18), assaulting Mr. Young (Id. at 1423), and shooting Officer MacPhail (id. at 1424) . Mr. Davis testified that he did not see who shot Officer MacPhail (id. at 1424), but stated that it was Mr. Coles who slapped Mr. Young (id. at 1423). Also, Mr. Davis denied speaking to Mr. Sapp on August 19, 1989. (Id. at 1431.)
Mr. Davis's new evidence does not change the balance of proof from trial. Of his seven "recantations," only one is a meaningful, credible recantation. Supra Analysis Part III.B. The value of that recantation is diminished because it only confirms that which was obvious at trial—that its author was testifying falsely. Id. Part III.B.ii (Kevin McQueen). Four of the remaining six recantations are either not credible or not true recantations and would be disregarded. Id. Parts III.B.i (Antoine Williams), III..iii (Jeffrey Sapp), III.B.iv (Darrell Collins), III.B.v (Harriet Murray). The remaining two recantations were presented under the most suspicious of circumstances, with Mr. Davis intentionally preventing the validity of the recantation from being challenged in open court through cross-examination. Id. Parts III.B.vi (Dorothy Ferrell), III.B.vii (Larry Young) . Worse, these witnesses were readily available—one was actually waiting in the courthouse—and Mr. Davis chose not to present their recantations as live testimony.
Mr. Davis's additional, non-recantation evidence also does not change the balance of proof from trial. At the outset, the Court notes that much of this evidence was presented in affidavit form. Affidavit evidence is viewed with great suspicion and has diminished value. Herrera, 506 U.S. at 417. Moreover, this evidence, whether presented as live testimony or in affidavit form, suffers other serious defects. The two witness identifications of Mr. Coles as the shooter were not credible, and Peggie Grant's affidavit testimony placing Mr. Coles in a white shirt is widely refuted in the record. Id. Part III.C.iii. The hearsay confessions carry little weight because the underlying confessions are uncorroborated and there is good reason to believe that they were false. Id. Part III.C.i. Further diminishing the value of this evidence is the fact that Mr. Davis had the means to test the validity of the underlying confessions by calling and impeaching Mr. Coles, but chose not to do so. Other evidence in this category simply lacks probative value; the munitions evidence and the accounts from April Hutchinson, Tonya Johnson, Anita Saddler, Gary Hargrove, and Daniel Kinsman are either totally inapposite or are of the most minimal probative value. See id. Parts III.C.ii, III.C.iii, III.C.iv. As a body, this evidence does not change the balance of proof that was presented at Mr. Davis's trial.
Ultimately, while Mr. Davis's new evidence casts some additional, minimal doubt on his conviction, it is largely smoke and mirrors. The vast majority of the evidence at trial remains intact, and the new evidence is largely not credible or lacking in probative value. After careful consideration, the Court finds that Mr. Davis has failed to make a showing of actual innocence that would entitle him to habeas relief in federal court. Accordingly, the Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus is DENIED.
Before the Court is Petitioner Troy Anthony Davis's Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus. (Doc. 2.) Pursuant to the order of the Supreme Court, this Court has held a hearing and now determines this petition. Davis, 130 S. Ct. at 1. For the above stated reasons, this Court concludes that executing an innocent person would violate the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution. However, Mr. Davis is not innocent: the evidence produced at the hearing on the merits of Mr. Davis's claim of actual innocence and a complete review of the record in this case does not require the reversal of the jury's judgment that Troy Anthony Davis murdered City of Savannah Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail on August 19, 1989. Accordingly, the petition is DENIED. The Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to file a copy of this order on the docket and forward this order to the Supreme Court of the United States.