Thursday, May 14, 2009

Who put Troy Davis on death row in Georgia? How might their actions be keeping him there?

An Overview of the Troy Anthony Davis story, and how despite overwhelming evidence of unreliable evidence at his original trial, Davis remains on death row facing execution in 2009.

"Text TROY to 90999"

We are offering a new 'who's who' of the individual prosecutors and other officials who put Davis on death row, and documenting areas where their actions may have set up a process whereby a pattern of injustices is reenacted by courts over and over again.

Assuming guilt, twisting facts, and admitting bias, Georgia DA Spencer Lawton spoke at length with TNR producer Dori Smith about Troy Davis, the man he put on death row back in 1989. He revealed more than he may have realized during the interview, showing how the same old unreliable evidence provided at Troy Davis’s original trial has persisted in undermining his appeal proceedings.

The original misuse of power that led prosecutors, police officials, judges, and others, to put this man behind bars, may have set up a scenario whereby justice is being permanently denied.

Spencer Lawton was the subject of a Talk Nation Radio special, October 23, 2008 on Georgia law and the shortcomings of original legal proceedings.

In April the 11th Circuit Court in Georgia found against Davis's attorneys in their efforts to obtain a new trial. Amnesty International is holding a Global Day for Troy Davis May 19, 2009.

» Find out what Global Day activities are happening in your state
» Organize and register your own Global Day of Action for Troy Davis event
» Download and print the May 19 Atlanta rally flyer
» Don't forget: Share pictures from your Day of Action events or activities

Here is a program we produced for Pacifica shortly after news that Troy Anthony Davis would get a new hearing by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. He had been spared the death penalty by only two hours, but his suffering family was hopeful that they might never have to go on death watch for him again.

Troy Davis has been in prison for more than twenty years for a crime he insists he did not do. There are many thousands of people who believe him. The human rights group, Amnesty International has long been his advocate. But how did Troy Davis actually arrive on death row? We list radio specials on Troy Davis.

September of 2008, Troy Anthony Davis V the State of Georgia. Interviews include:

1.) Martina Correia, Troy Davis on her inspirational life story of advocacy for the brother she loves. She discusses the problems created for her brother when the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. The 11th Circuit Court in Georgia refused to hear new evidence in the case due to a procedural problem created by this Act which was retroactively applied to Troy Davis and other death row prisoners. The Act set tight limits on the number and timing of appeals.

2.) Attorney Deirdre O'Connor, an attorney licensed in California and Georgia, and director of Innocence Matters. She wrote an amicus brief in support of Troy Davis's Petition for Certiorari and was Attorney of Record on an amicas brief for Troy Davis to the Georgia Supreme Court. We reached Attorney Deirdre O'Conner shortly after she and Troy Davis learned of the Supreme Court's decision.

3.) Laura Tate Kagel, Amnesty International's Georgia Death Penalty Abolition describes the massive quantities of email, letters, and calls her office receives about Troy Davis.

But speaking with the man who put him there, Spencer Lawton, one gains special insights about the case.

Spencer Lawton was the controversial DA featured in the book, 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil'. He is sensitive about that, but not willing to discuss the reason that this book and a film made about it are still relevant.

Back in 1989, Spencer Lawton watched the Georgia Supreme Court release James Williams, a man he had just tried for murder. That conviction was overturned due to the fact that Lawton failed to provide evidence at trial that could have been used to clear Williams.

There have been other men released from Georgia's death row after new evidence proved their innocence. Georgia has been heavily criticized by anti death penalty activists who argue that there have been 130 people released from death row in various states after law firms took it upon themselves to investigate their cases.

They argue that the state has made it impossible for death row prisoners to obtain evidence hearings and new trials due to strict laws that demand proof that original trial testimony was false.

It's an impossible standard to meet according to trial attorneys long frustrated by Georgia court proceedings.

More than 220 people have been exonerated by DNA evidence according to Ezekiel Edwards, an eyewitness expert and staff attorney at the Innocence Project based in New York. Obviously, mistakes are possible. Yet Spencer Lawton has long argued that the original Troy Davis trial was sound, and new evidence from seven witnesses who recanted their testimony, should not be believed, is suspect because it is "too coincidental".

This failure to acknowledge serious flaws in the judicial process may cost Troy Davis his life.

Perhaps the case was fresh in Lawton's mind as he prosecuted other cases like that of Troy Davis between 1989 and 1991 when Davis was convicted. We cannot know for sure, but what we can know is that during the original trial of Troy Davis, there were witnesses who were trying to recant their earlier statements to police. Those statements were part of the court record. Yet on October 21, 2008, Spencer Lawton told Talk Nation Radio listeners that the "they all denied" they had been coerced.

Here is an excerpt: —DA Spencer Lawton: “The attorneys for Mr. Davis examined them closely, did everything in their power to get these people to say that they were coerced by the police or that they really didn’t see what they thought they saw or whatever. And they all denied that.”

Dori Smith: “Lawton is incorrect about that says Attorney Deirdre O’Connor, director of the group Innocence Matters based in Georgia and California. O’Connor wrote an Amicus brief to the Georgia Supreme Court in support of an appeal to have evidence in the case officially reviewed. She says several witnesses including a 16-year-old named Darrell Collins, did tell the court the testimony had been coerced.”

Attorney Deirdre O’Connor: “When the prosecutor was trying to get him to implicate Mr. Davis Mr. Collins said listen, these things that I said to the police weren’t true. I said them because they threatened me. They told me that they would put me in jail, that I would be charged with a crime. Here are some quotes. he said, “I told the detective what he wanted to hear cuz I was scared. I didn’t want to go to jail. The police told me if I didn’t cooperate with them I’m gonna be in prison for ten to twelve years.” Right? But this was testimony provided in his presence to the jury in his case in which he was the lead attorney”.

Smith: “During an appeal hearing in 2007 the Georgia Supreme Court heard an Assistant DA named Lock admit that there were witnesses who tried to back up at trial who said they had been coerced by police into signing statements:”

Assistant DA David Lock Savannah Georgia: “There were some witnesses that backed up a little bit at trial. They were cross examined on whether the police coerced them. Some said yeah the police just wanted me to sign the statement. But you know that’s the most police coercion we’ve really heard even alleged in affidavits that oh they wanted me to, they they they forced, they they wanted me to sign the statement, they told me what they wanted me to say”.

Other guests on today’s show include: Attorney Deirdre O’Connor of Innocence Matters. She has been speaking with Troy Davis throughout the week and wrote an Amicus brief for the 2007 Georgia Supreme Court appeal in support of the defense. Kathleen ‘Kitty’ Behan is one of Troy Davis’s previous attorneys. Ezekiel Edwards is an eyewitness expert and staff attorney at the Innocence Project. He offered scientific analysis of the witnesses statements in the Davis trial for an upcoming Talk Nation Radio special that aired on 10/24/2008 On Talk Nation Radio broadcast station WHUS in Storrs, Connecticut.

If you believe Troy Davis deserves justice, contact "Text TROY to 90999"

Update: Willimantic, Connecticut May 19, 2009, at the Wrench in the Works Collective a discussion followed by a candle light vigil for Troy Davis. See: Global Day of Action for Troy Davis

For more information see Finality over Fairness.

Save Troy Davis!Changed my face book and twitter status' to "Text TROY to 90999" and put up fifty posters around my college campus.

It's not much but I just want Troy to know he is in my thoughts and prayers!
When: Ongoing
City: New London
Location: Connecticut College
Organizers: Gillian Rowland-Kain
Contact: Gillian Rowland-Kain,
Visit their Website.

FAITH IN ACTION FOR TROYWe've been publicizing Troy's case and praying for him during services. We have a display set up at the entrance to our synagogue with flyers and info sheets to inform people about Troy's situation and urge them to take action.
When: ongoing
City: Hamden
Location: Congregation Mishkan Israel
785 Ridge Rd.
Hamden, CT 06517
Organizers: Social Action Committee, Congregation Mishkan Israel
Contact: Rabbi Herb Brockman, 203-288-3877,

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Pokey Anderson, Ellen Theisen, Brad Friedman, on John Gideon's Work

Talk Nation Radio for May 13, 2009

Pokey Anderson, Ellen Theisen, Brad Friedman, on John Gideon's work

The struggle to count every vote continues

Sign up for the 'Daily Voting News' newsletter here.

This show is a 'part 2' but both 1,2 stand alone
See part one.
May 6, 2009, Ellen Theisen and Brad Friedman on John Gideon’s Passing
TRT: 29:36 (music fades 19 sec)
Produced by Dori Smith
Download at Pacifica's Audioport here or at here or..
Click MP3 or right click here and save file to download from

We hear portions of a blues song. Listen to

Shannon Williford
song Election Reform

We have been focusing on voting rights issues and the remarkable contributions of a voting rights activist named John Gideon who died in April of meningitis at the age of 62. In part one people responded to Gideon's sudden passing and noted his major contribution toward more transparency and integrity in our nation's elections.

This time we hear more clips of John Gideon and note his amazing enthusiasm for voting rights as we focus more on the serious nature of problems that have been identified with electronic voting machines. People like John Gideon have spent countless hours pouring over information from elections, and he did it for zero pay.

Our condolences to John Gideon's family, his son Rick and grandson as well as others who knew and loved him.

Radio work: John Gideon was also with the Coalition for Voting Integrity and was a frequent guest on the radio show Voice of the Voter with Mary Ann Gould.

We hear from long time investigative reporter, Pacifica radio producer and researcher, Pokey Anderson. For six years she co-produced The Monitor Radio Show at Pacifica station, KPFT, in Texas. We discuss her piece published on the website Here she is interviewing Nancy Tobi of the Election Defense Alliance.

Peering Through Chinks in the Armor of High-Tech Elections
by Pokey Anderson
May 27, 2007.. "When you vote, who you voted for is a secret. -- Virtually everything else about elections should be public and transparent. But somehow, secrecy has come to cloak many aspects of elections"

In her comprehensive report on high tech voting machines and problems within the electoral system, investigative reporter Pokey Anderson looks at the machines, the motives, and the inner workings of the election machinery, to document the core of the problem.
She writes:

"There are unique things about running elections that no other software has to accomplish. When the voter leaves the polling place, because of anonymity, he or she is forever separated from the vote cast, with no way to check and see if it was ultimately counted correctly. This is quite different from using an ATM, which gives you a record at the time of the transaction, sends you a monthly statement to review, and makes a video record of the transaction as well. Plus, if someone were able to empty your entire bank account, they might net what, $1000? $10,000? $100,000?

By contrast, if someone were able to steal votes, they could put their own puppets into office, and could conceivably use the credit of the United States Treasury to funnel millions or billions of dollars their way. So, there’s a huge prize to entice ethically-challenged operatives.

Let’s make it personal. The winners of elections get to spend thousands of your tax dollars each year, so you could think of hackable electronic voting machines as leaving your checkbook out on the sidewalk, with a bunch of signed checks." ...continue reading here.

We also hear from Ellen Theisen, Director of Voters Unite.
Vote Counting Failures in Ohio and New Jersey Violate Federal Law, Accuracy Mandates
John Gideon wanted the stewards of democracy to have a summary of each day’s news concerning a broad range of issues regarding the integrity of elections in the U.S. and elsewhere, so he created and published the free newsletter, the ‘Daily Voting News’ newsletter.
WA State Seeks to Use Military and Overseas Voters as Internet Voting Guinea Pigs

And Brad Friedman of Brad Blog.
Brad Friedman on Twitter

Brad Friedman reports on 3/15/2007 with an EXCLUSIVE: "New Details on the Phony 'Voter Fraud' Angle in the U.S. Attorneys Purge Scandal...An Insider's Report from a New Mexico Election Attorney on the Firing of David Iglesias and the Rove/DoJ/Republican Efforts to Create a 2004 'Voter Fraud' Scare in the State...RELATED? - The GOP 'Voter Fraud' Front Group ACVR Goes Suddenly AWOL!"
Thomas Wilkey Has Kept Problems at the Labs Hidden from the Public and Behind a Wall of Secrecy for Years..." After ES&S Refuses To Turn-Over Source Code For 'Top-To-Bottom' Review ...SoS Debra Bowen: 'I'm not going to stand by and watch ES&S ignore the the State of California' " much more by searching Brad's Blog here.

These are just some of the people John Gideon worked with as he documented technical problems with voting machines and the growing security crisis for US voting systems in general. The body of his many thousands of pages of work is now a historical record on voting technologies, the many failures that have occurred during elections, what people using the machines or manning them at the polls said about them, many of the system failures, failures with oversight, challenges to bring a paper ballot to every state, challenges over profit minded vendors and manufacturers, and how activists like Gideon challenged the system and in some cases won the battle to restore voting integrity. There have been victories large and small in states like Florida, Ohio, and California. Secretaries of State all over the country have been rethinking Direct Record E-technology, the DRE or touch screen voting that has caused so many problems. For the moment many state officials find themselves stuck with costly machines and no money to replace them.

As of March 2009, one month prior to his death, John Gideon had analyzed a new bill put forward by Congressman Rush Holt that offers a time line for replacing all DREs with paper ballots or a non-tabulating ballot-marking device (BMD) in each polling place. Experts in the struggle for a verifiable paper ballot have been offering detailed critiques, and you can read the critique by John Gideon and Ellen Theisen online at The goal is to allow voters to privately and independently verify and cast the permanent paper ballot, but there are still some difficulties with details on ballot handling. If it passes the bill will formalize a process that has been taking place on a state by state basis as officials learn the hard way that DRE technology is prone to failure and is unworkable if we are to have safe, verifiable elections, where any voter can readily see how the results were obtained.

John Gideon was not someone who you would expect to see become a high powered activist and expert on computer voting. He was a down to earth man, a disabled Vietnam veteran who did not take any income from his very intensive work as a voting rights activist. Over time it became invaluable to people in all US states struggling to make sure every US vote counts.

To accommodate all of the stories breaking in each state, and place them in context, John Gideon invented the Daily Voting News. This newsletter documented voting problems all over the country. His goal was to help voters, state officials, activists, and political leaders, see the extent of the problem.

In our last program Brad Friedman explained that Gideon accomplished his goal in that many Americans and officials now realize that there is a serious problem.

John Gideon has been described as a voting rights hero by some of the very government officials he criticized, and he was an unusual political activist in that he was able to get a wide variety of people to listen to him and work with him as he researched voting machine failures and failures of the oversight system.

Clips: Voice of the Voter, hosted by Mary Ann Gould, with James Strait, sponsored by the non partisan group, The Coalition for Voting Integrity.

Pokey Anderson referred to her interview with John Gideon just after a story by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. came out. Here are stories by RFK Jr.

Rolling Stone Magazine: 'Will the next election be hacked?' Was the 2004 election stolen?
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. hosts Ring of Fire, Air America., Greg Palast and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: "Steal Back Your Vote!" and Stand up for Democracy with Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

A state funded study finds problems with the memory cards for Diebold AccuVote OS voting machines to be used in Connecticut’s Super Tuesday Election; Connecticut’s Voting Machine Expert Alex Shvartsman Explains here in audio of TN radio show. More here here and here or search our web site for information on LHS Associates, Memory Card problems with the AccuVote Optical Scan voting machines in use in CT., and interviews with Rebecca Mercuri and many others.

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