NAACP presses district attorney to revisit case

Associated Press
Troy Davis: Convicted murderer has been on death row for 18 years. His attorneys insist he is innocent and deserves a new trial.

SAVANNAH, Ga. --- The NAACP called Thursday for Chatham County's new district attorney to reconsider the case against death-row inmate Troy Davis, saying issues raised in Mr. Davis' appeals cast considerable doubt on his guilt.

Mr. Davis has spent 18 years on death row for the 1989 slaying of Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail. His attorneys insist Mr. Davis is innocent and deserves a new trial because several witnesses at his trial have recanted their testimony.

Though Mr. Davis' latest appeal is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, leaders of the national NAACP and its local chapter said at a Thursday news conference that District Attorney Larry Chisolm should immediately begin a "microscopic examination" of the case.

"District Attorney Chisolm can act now, regardless of what the Supreme Court does," said the Rev. Nelson B. Rivers III, a vice president of the national NAACP. "He ought to put the brakes on whenever he can apply them, and he can apply them now."

Mr. Chisolm's predecessor, Spencer Lawton, was district attorney when Mr. Davis was convicted in 1991. Prosecutors under Mr. Lawton, who retired last year, rejected Mr. Davis' claims of innocence and labeled statements by recanting witnesses as "suspect."

Mr. Davis' supporters hope Mr. Chisolm will see things differently. The Democrat became the first black elected Chatham County's top prosecutor in November, with much of his support coming from black voters in Savannah.

Still, Mr. Rivers said the NAACP wasn't appealing to Mr. Chisolm because of his race or asking the prosecutor to "declare Troy Davis innocent," but rather to take a fresh look at whether Mr. Davis deserves a new trial.

Mr. Chisolm declined to comment Thursday. His spokeswoman, Lydia Sermons, said he won't talk about Mr. Davis' case until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on Mr. Davis' appeal. She said Mr. Chisolm is unsure if he has the legal authority to halt an execution.

"From what we're getting at this point, it's not a decision he would solely make," Ms. Sermons said.

"To our knowledge, it's not a unilateral decision by Mr. Chisolm. There's a judge and other parties involved in the process."

A divided Georgia Supreme Court has twice rejected Mr. Davis' request for a new trial and the state Board of Pardons and Paroles turned down his bid for clemency.

Mr. Davis' scheduled execution Sept. 23 was halted when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider his appeal.

Troy Davis: Convicted murderer has been on death row for 18 years. His attorneys insist he is innocent and deserves a new trial.