Category: witness recantation

Will Georgia execute Troy Davis?

By Alan Bean

This article by Amnesty International’s Brian Evans provides the most concise status report on the Troy Davis case I have encountered.  According to judge William T. Moore, Mr. Davis failed to prove his innocence.  Meanwhile, the essential features of the state’s case have crumbled to dust.  Will the State of Georgia execute Troy Davis because he can’t prove his innocence to a legal certainty?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to commute his sentence to life without parole so his attorney’s can continue the fight? (more…)

Should an innocent man suffer to protect the integrity of the legal system?

John Kinsel is going on his twelfth year at Angola prison. Locked up on the charge of aggravated rape, his sentence is for life without parole.
John Kinsel

By Alan Bean

The judicial system doesn’t like recantations.  When a witness recants you know they are capable of lying.  But when did they lie; at trial or after trial? 

Motivation is always difficult to determine.  Is the witness changing her story because of a guilty conscience, or is she merely succumbing to social pressure?

And then there’s the big issue: judicial credibility.  The criminal justice system is only as credible as the state witnesses who take the stand.  Prosecutors can’t acknowledge that a star witness lied under oath without calling the accuracy and finality of the judicial process into question.  Lying witnesses don’t invalidate the system, of course; but they do undermine confidence in legal outcomes.  

As Caiaphas told the Sanhedrin in John’s Gospel: “It is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.”

The tragic story of John Kinsel illustrates how easily finality can trump fairness when the integrity of the legal system is on the line.  The witness who accused Kinsel of rape and molestation in 1996 now insists she invented her testimony.  A judge granted a new trial only to be overruled by the conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.  (more…)