Otherwise, someone might be upset that he’s about to be executed for a crime he probably didn’t commit.
Two men scuffled in a Burger King parking lot, an off-duty cop tried to intervene, and one of the men killed the cop. It appears that the killer then went to the police and said he’d seen Davis pull the trigger, and the police then dutifully went about turning that false accusation into a capital sentence.
Here’s a piece of a statement from one of the key witnesses, who was 16 at the time of the shooting. (“Red” is the man who first accused Davis):
I told them it was Red and not Troy who was messing with that man, but they didn’t want to hear that. The detectives told me, “Fine, have it your way. Kiss your life goodbye because you’re going to jail.” After a couple of hours of the detectives yelling at me and threatening me, I finally broke down and told them what they wanted to hear.
Having succeeded in obtaining a death sentence against an innocent man, prosecutors are sticking with it, and the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act has allowed them to keep all the recantations — by three out of the four witnesses in a case with no physical evidence whatever — out of the court record. So it doesn’t really matter of the rest of the Supreme Court agrees with the opinion of Scalia and Thomas (concurring in Herrera v. Collins) that if an innocent man has been convicted in a procedurally fair trial there’s no Constitutional bar to executing him; since AEDPA makes it all but impossible legally to prove innocence, the question doesn’t arise.
To his credit, William Sessions, FBI Director under Reagan and Bush the First, is trying to kick up a fuss. But it probably won’t do any good. And the Republicans and the right-wing media will accuse anyone who tries to change the law of being soft on crime.
Update The execution is tomorrow. The clemency hearing is today.