A federal judge could soon order a new trial for convicted murderer, Scott Davis, 50, who alleges widespread police and prosecutorial misconduct in his 2006 trial.
“I was outraged. This is a kangaroo court,” said Davis’ father, Dr. Dave Davis, referring to his son’s trial before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Tom Campbell.
“I couldn’t believe that Judge Campbell, that he’d let them put this evidence up there, evidence that we had never seen, that we had never been able to examine or use in our defense,” said the elder Davis.
Davis was initially arrested in 1996 and charged with murdering his estranged wife’s boyfriend David Coffin and setting his home in Buckhead on fire. Police dropped the charges for lack of evidence but rearrested Davis nine years later after the cold case was reexamined.
“We found a tremendous amount of problems with the case,” said Marcia Shein, a criminal defense attorney who took over Davis’ case after his conviction in 2006.
Shein showed investigative reporter Jeff Chirico a board she created listing what she called the “7 deadly sins” of police who investigated Coffin’s murder.
According to Shein and a petition she filed in federal court, police violated more than 300 standard operating procedures in handling evidence and inexplicably lost or destroyed 72 pieces of evidence before the trial, including the purported murder weapon and fingerprints. Shein also alleged the tape with Davis’ police interview in 1996 had been stopped at least twice during recording, which should make it inadmissible in court.
Shein also showed Chirico photos which apparently depict the Atlanta Police Department evidence room in disarray at the time of Davis’ trial.
“This is a trash pile of evidence with no labels and no information as to whose case it belongs to,” said Shein. “I don’t know how many cases have suffered because of that.”
Shein said she’s particularly concerned about the fingerprints that disappeared before trial. Police found the prints on Coffin’s stolen Porsche which had been burned and found not far from his home. Police admitted the prints weren’t Davis’ but never entered them into the national fingerprint database called AFIS (Automatic Fingerprint Identification System). An Atlanta police officer testified he lost the fingerprint card after taking it home, a violation of department procedures. Shein contended police may have been able to find Coffin’s “real” murderer had they entered the prints in AFIS.
Shein contends police misconduct in the handling of the gun allegedly used to kill Coffin. Former GBI examiner Bernadette Davy, who tested the weapon and testified to her findings in court, was later found to have falsified reports and resigned. Davis’ attorneys haven’t been able to retest the gun because it too went missing.
“How does the state get to allow that testimony without defense being able to see the firearm or have their experts evaluate it? Is that a fair trial? That’s the question that’s always bothered me,” said Shein.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard insisted Davis’ constitutional rights weren’t violated and any evidence that was lost wasn’t done so in bad faith or intentionally.
However, Shein argued in the federal court petition that much of the misconduct was in bad faith. Specifically, Shein pointed to a fire department clerk’s admission under oath that she lied on an affidavit about receiving the missing murder weapon and that her superior instructed her to do so.
When Chirico asked Howard whether that’s bad faith, Howard responded, “I almost have to laugh when I hear that. The courts have already dealt with that issue.”
Shein contended the previous court rulings did not fully consider the misconduct and she’s hopeful U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg will closely consider the request for a new trial.
“It makes the constitution meaningless if you let these types of situations continue,” said Shein.
While Davis’ parents are hopeful the judge will rule in their son’s favor, they’re also offering a $600,000 reward for information that could vindicate their son before much more time passes.
“We may never see him again free before we die,” reflected Joan Davis.
Judge Campbell did not return a call for comment.
It’s unclear when Totenberg may rule on the petition.
Source : News report June/September 2015