In 1991 Davis was convicted for the 1989 killing of an off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail. There is no physical evidence tying Davis to the crime scene and seven out of the nine non-police witnesses have since recanted or altered their initial testimonies. Others have implicated the prosecution's key remaining witnesses as the actual perpetrator of the crime.
Justice Scalia’s dissenting opinion states: “This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is 'actually' innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged 'actual innocence' is constitutionally cognizable."
In a separate opinion answering Scalia’s dissent, Justice Stevens, joined by Justices Ruth Brader Ginsburg and Stephen Bryer, wrote “The substantial risk of putting an innocent man to death clearly provides an adequate justification for holding an evidentiary hearing.”
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