Georgia Death Row Inmate Must Appeal to Supreme Court

A federal judge ruled that a Georgia death row inmate must appeal a denial of a new trial to the United States Supreme Court rather than the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The man was convicted in the 1989 murder of an off-duty Savannah police officer. His federal appeal to the 11th Circuit was denied after a judge found that the Supreme Court had original jurisdiction over the case.

The defendant claims that new evidence that was not available during his 1991 trial would clear his name. The Supreme Court heard the defendant’s case last year and sent it back to the federal court with instructions for the judge to determine whether the new evidence would “clearly” establish his innocence.

U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr. ruled that the defendant failed to prove his innocence and was not entitled to a new trial. While Moore found that the new evidence provided some “minimal” doubt about the defendant’s conviction, he called it “largely smoke and mirrors.” Moore sent the ruling directly to the Supreme Court.

However, the defendant appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, rather than the Supreme Court. Moore ruled that it would be “incredibly anachronistic” for a court of appeals to hear the case, as he considered the case to be under the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

The off-duty police officer was shot twice in the parking lot of a Greyhound terminal and a Burger King restaurant in the early morning of August 19, 1989. A jury deliberated for two hours before convicting the defendant of the officer’s murder and recommending that he be sentenced to death. The defendant has been on death row at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison at Jackson.

Source: Savannah Morning News, “Update: Judge says Troy Davis should appeal directly to U.S. Supreme Court,” Jan Skutch, October 19, 2010