A new bill introduced November 3, 2009, in the US House of Representatives, would give those sentenced to death in capital cases an "opportunity to show compelling new evidence of innocence" in Federal court, to avoid putting "someone to death if there are innumerable doubts or omissions," according to Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), the DeKalb County congressman who sponsored the legislation.
FILE: Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., speaks with the media after visiting with
death row inmate Troy Anthony Davis, Friday, May 29, 2009 in Jackson, Ga.
Davis, whose conviction for the 1989 murder of a police officer is
awaiting a new evidentiary hearing after 9 of 11 witnesses against him re-
canted, stands to benefit from HR 3986, should it become law. (AP Photo)
The Effective Death Penalty Appeals Act would amend several paragraphs of current judicial code regarding death penalty appeals. According to the language of the bill, it would force the courts to consider "newly discovered evidence which, in combination with the evidence presented at trial, demonstrates that the applicant is probably not guilty of the underlying offense."
Fellow Atlanta Congressman, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a co-sponsor of the legislation, asserted in a press release, that the new law was needed, because "where legal technicalities prohibit new, important evidence from being heard, the value of a human life overrides any inconvenience of law. We have a duty and an obligation to ensure that those who may be innocent have every opportunity to be heard."
HR 3986 was referred to the House Judiciary Committee on November 3. Besides Lewis, the bill's co-sponsors include Johnson's fellow committee members John Conyers (D-MI), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Robert Scott (D-VA) and Anthony Weiner (D-NY).