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“River of Fire”: In New Memoir, Sister Helen Prejean Reflects on Decades of Fighting Executions

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The Trump administration is moving ahead with plans to resume the death penalty after a more than 15-year moratorium. This week Attorney General William Barr proposed fast-tracking executions in mass murder cases, and last month ordered the execution of five death row prisoners beginning in December. The federal government has executed just three people since 1963 — the last being in 2003. The death penalty is widely condemned by national governments, international bodies and human rights groups across the world. Experts say capital punishment does not help deter homicides and that errors and racism in the criminal justice system extend to those sentenced to death. We speak with Sister Helen Prejean, a well-known anti-death-penalty activist who began her prison ministry over 30 years ago. She is the author of the best-selling book “Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty,” which was turned into an Academy Award-winning film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. …

Georgia: Troy Davis hearing set for June 30

Federal judge directs both sides to provide witness lists, evidence by June 11.

A June 30 hearing was scheduled Tuesday for convicted murderer Troy Anthony Davis to present his innocence claims in the 1989 slaying of off-duty Savannah police officer Mark Allen MacPhail.

Chief U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr. also ordered attorneys for Davis and the state to file their lists of all witnesses, affidavits and other evidence by June 11.

Davis, 40, remains on death row at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison at Jackson for his 1991 conviction and death sentence in the MacPhail case.

The U.S. Supreme Court in August sent the case to federal court with instructions for the court to take testimony and determine whether evidence not available at the original trial "clearly establishes (Davis') innocence." MacPhail, 27, was shot twice and slain early Aug. 19, 1989, as he rushed to help a homeless man being beaten in the parking lot of the Burger King restaurant/Greyhound Bus Terminal at Oglethorpe Avenue and Fahm Street.

Davis' attorneys contend 7 of the 9 prosecution witnesses have recanted their testimony, creating sufficient doubt about the verdict and that an innocent man may be executed.

They also claim to have 9 new witnesses not heard from at the 1st trial.

The state, represented by the Georgia attorney general's office, contend the new evidence is simply rehashed argument already rejected by appellate courts.

In his 29-page order, Moore said both parties will be required to disclose discovery information before the hearing.

He found the state had not shown specific reasons for its requested questions in the case and denied them.

Those questions involved such issues as the contents of affidavits concerning timing of information to attack credibility of the affidavits.

They also included any notes of interviews with those providing "innocence" affidavits.

He did allow a question that went to when the evidence Davis is relying on became available.

And he directed Davis' lawyers to respond to the first time anyone acting for Davis contacted those providing affidavits.

But Moore rejected Davis' attorneys efforts to review police files regarding Davis and Sylvester "Red" Coles in the slaying of MacPhail and assaults on Larry Young and Michael Cooper as well as Mark Wilds.

He ruled they had not established evidence to "warrant discovery of the police file."

Davis' team contends Coles, who was at the MacPhail shooting scene, learned police were looking for him and accused Davis to shift blame.

Questions

Chief U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr. Tuesday ordered attorneys for Troy Anthony Davis to answer specific questions by May 27. They are:

-- When, if ever, any member of Davis' family or friends provided names in the affidavits Davis now relies on?

-- When, if ever, did any of the people providing affidavits come forward to the defense team and provide information contained in those affidavits?

-- When was the 1st time anyone acting for Davis on the defense team contacted those offering affidavits?

-- When was the 1st time any of Davis' family or friends made contact with any of those offering affidavits?

Source: SavannahNow, April 28, 2010

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