Troy Davis, the 42-year-old death row inmate who was convicted of the 1989 murder of off duty police officer Mark MacPhail, is scheduled to be executed tomorrow by lethal injection.
Troy Davis Denied Stay Of Execution: Will Be Killed Tomorrow!
Today, the Georgia board of pardons denied clemency to Davis and he will be executed on September 21, 2011 at 7 p.m.
This high profile case has been one of the strongest arguments against using capital punishment, mainly because for the last 20 years, Davis’ case has been shrouded in doubt.
Davis has claimed his innocence from day one and this is where the problems lie when it comes to capital punishment. Since 1971 to 2010, there have been 17 cases in which DNA played a substantial factor in establishing innocence. So it stands to reason that it is possible Georgia maybe executing an innocent man tomorrow.
Unfortunately, as we continue to execute death row inmates, we all too often find that later down the road it was a possibility that they were innocent.
Take a look at some unusual cases of men that were executed, but may have been innocent.
Carlos De Luna, Executed In 1989:
In February 1983, Wanda Lopez was stabbed to death while at the gas station she worked.
Police found De Luna hiding under a pick-up truck because he was drinking in public, which violated his parole.
De Luna told police that he was innocent and offered the name of the person he saw at the gas station.
De Luna did not have blood on him, even though the crime scene was covered in blood.
At trial De Luna named Carlos Hernandez who had a long history of knife attacks similar to the convenience store killing and repeatedly told friends and relatives that he had committed the murder. On December 7, 1989, Texas executed 27-year-old Carlos De Luna.
David Spence, Executed In 1997:
In 1982, David Spence was accused of the rape and murder of two 17-year-old girls and one 18-year-old boy in Waco, Texas.
The prosecution built its case against Spence around bite marks that a state expert said matched Spence’s teeth and jailhouse snitches. Spence’s post-conviction lawyers had a blind panel study in which five experts said the bite marks could not be matched to Spence’s. Homicide investigators who worked on the case said he had serious doubts about Spence’s guilt. Spence was given lethal injection on April 14, 1997.
Ellis Wayne Felker, Executed in 1996:
Ellis Wayne Felker was a suspect in the 1981 disappearance, rape and murder of Evelyn Joy Ludlum. He was put under police surveillance for two weeks. Independent autopsies found that the Ludlum’s body had been dead no more than three days.
In 1996, Felker’s attorneys discovered boxes of evidence that had been unlawfully withheld by the prosecution, including DNA evidence and a written confession by another suspect. Felker was executed by electrocution November 15, 1996 at the age of 48.
Jesse Tafero, Executed In 1990:
On February 20, 1976, Highway Patrol officer Phillip Black and Donald Irwin were shot to death after they approached a trio of people sleeping in a parked car at a rest stop. Tafero, his partner Sonia “Sunny” Jacobs, and Walter Rhodes were found asleep inside.
According to Rhodes, Tafero shot both Black and Irwin with the gun, however all three were arrested after being caught in a roadblock. The gun was found in Tafero’s waistband.
At the trial, Rhodes testified that Tafero and Jacobs were solely responsible for the murders. Tafero and Jacobs were convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death, while Rhodes was sentenced to 3 life sentences. Rhodes and Jacobs were eventually released for good behavior, but not Tafero.
Rhodes was the only person on which traces of gunpowder were found. Tafero was executed by electric chair on May 4, 1990.
Leo Jones, Executed In 1998:
Jones was convicted of murdering a police officer in Jacksonville, Florida. Jones signed a confession under pressure from heavy interrogation from police officers. Jones claimed the confession was coerced.
Many witnesses came forward pointing to another suspect in the case.
Larry Griffin, Executed In 1995:
Griffin was convicted of killing St. Louis, Missouri resident 19-year-old Quintin Moss in a drive-by shooting.
Griffin was sentenced to death because of the testimony from Robert Fitzgerald, a white career criminal, who was at the scene at the time of the murder. Griffin’s fingerprints were not found on the car, or the weapon and all evidence against him was circumstantial.
On June 21, 1995, Griffin maintained his innocence all the way up to his execution. In 2005, a professor University of Michigan Law School reopened the case. His investigation concluded that Griffin was innocent.
Gary Graham, Executed In 2000:
Gary Graham was 17 when he was charged with the 1981 robbery and shooting of Bobby Lambert outside a Houston supermarket. Graham was convicted on the testimony of one witness, Bernadine Skillern, who said she saw the killer’s face for a few seconds through her car windshield, from a distance of 30-40 feet away.
Two other witnesses, both who worked at the grocery store and said they got a good look at the assailant, said Graham was not the killer.
On June 23, 2000, Gary Graham was executed in Texas.
Ruben Cantu, Executed In 1993:
At 17, Cantu was charged with capital murder for the shooting death of a San Antonio man during an attempted robbery. Juan Moreno, an eyewitness to the shooting, said that it was not Cantu who shot him and that he only identified Cantu as the shooter because he felt pressured and was afraid of the authorities.
David Garza, Cantu’s co-defendant said during the 1985 trial, signed a sworn affidavit saying that he allowed Cantu to be accused and executed even though he wasn’t with him on the night of the killing.
Garza stated, “Part of me died when he died. You’ve got a 17-year-old who went to his grave for something he did not do. Texas murdered an innocent person.”
Joseph O’Dell, Executed In 1997:
In 1991 O’Dell was convicted of rape and murder. In reviewing his case in 1991, three Supreme Court Justices had doubts about O’Dell’s guilt and without the blood evidence, there was little linking O’Dell to the crime. In September of 1996, the 4th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals reinstated his death sentence and O’Dell was executed on July 23rd.
Cameron Todd Willingham, Executed In 2004
Cameron Todd Willingham was convicted of killing his three young daughters by burning down his home in Texas.
Willingham was convicted of capital murder after arson investigators concluded that 20 indicators of arson led them to believe that an accelerant had been used to set three separate fires inside his home.
Four national arson experts have concluded that the original investigation of Willingham’s case was flawed, and it is possible the fire was accidental.