Lawyers in the Georgia attorney general's office dispute claims by Davis that no court has ever examined his new evidence. "The majority of [Davis's] affidavits have previously been presented and reviewed in state and federal habeas proceedings," writes Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker in his brief to the court.
"[Davis] has availed himself of numerous opportunities to challenge eyewitness testimony identifying him as the shooter," Mr. Baker writes, adding that lawyers for Davis raised the same issue during his trial 17 years ago.
The attorney general's brief quotes Davis's lawyer presenting his closing argument to the jury at the 1991 trial: "But what about the quality, the credibility of those witnesses," the lawyer asked the jury.
"You, the jurors in this case, are the sole judges of the credibility of those witnesses," he said. "Seven witnesses put on that stand by the State of Georgia recanted, contradicted, or changed their testimony."
Courts set a high standard to overturn a conviction and grant a new trial. A convict must present new evidence that had never been introduced at the trial, and it must be evidence strong enough to suggest the original verdict was wrong.
The issue in the Davis case is whether judges considering Davis's motion for a new trial should have granted him a hearing to allow an examination of his affidavits and other evidence.
The Georgia Supreme Court ruled 4 to 3 against granting Davis such a hearing. In reaching that result, the majority justices analyzed the affidavits and said they were unconvinced of Davis's innocence.
In contrast, the three dissenting justices concluded that the court was setting the bar too high in cases involving claims of actual innocence. All that had to be demonstrated, the dissenting justices said, was that the new evidence taken as a whole would create the probability of a different outcome if a new trial were held.