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Defense witnesses cite fear in the Troy Anthony Davis evidence hearing. Veteran Savannah police say they never threatened witnesses.

By Tina A. Brown
SAVANNAH _After years of public silence witnesses, who recanted court testimony and statements to police that they’d witnessed Troy Anthony Davis fatally shoot Savannah Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail in 1989, testified Wednesday that they’d fingered Davis because they feared local police.

The defense witnesses some of whom had admitted criminal histories and spoke so softly that U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr. ordered them to speak up; told a courtroom full of MacPhail and Davis supporters that they had not told the truth during Davis’ murder trial and in sworn affidavits. Their collective testimonies helped Chatham County prosecute Davis, who was sentenced by a jury to death in 1991. Davis’ sentence of execution has been stayed three times.

Conversely, the prosecution witnesses, mostly Savannah-Chatham Metro Police detectives, also testified Wednesday. They said repeatedly that they had not threatened the Davis witnesses or forced them to say they had witnessed Davis shoot MacPhail; or heard him brag about it later.

Their recantations led to a historic decision by the U.S. Supreme Court last year to return the case to the local jurisdiction for Wednesday’s evidentiary hearing. The unprecedented case has prominent onlookers, such as Benjamin Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International, predicting that the outcome of the hearing might change the way U.S. courts weigh eyewitness testimony. No weapons were confiscated by police
in the Davis case. DNA evidence has not been introduced to the court linking Davis to the incident.

The hearing resumes today at 9:30 a.m. at the Tomochichi federal courthouse on Wright Square in
Savannah. Attorney Stephen Marsh leads the defense team. Assistant Georgia Attorney General Beth Burton is in charge of the prosecution.

Defense witness Antoine Williams was a limo driver at the time of the murder. He testified that he doesn’t know who shot MacPhail. He recalled in open court that he was sitting in his vehicle, which had triple-tinted windows, when he heard the shooting in a downtown Savannah parking lot.
“I was ducking peeking,” he said, adding that he could not identify the person who killed MacPhail.

Immediately after the fatal shooting in August 1989, Williams said he moved to New York. He said when
asked by Savannah police what he had witnessed, he testified that he told authorities, “I wasn’t sure who
the gentleman was who shot.”

Questioned why he had signed statements that Davis was the shooter, Williams said, “I can’t read or spell.”

At Davis trial, he said he identified Davis as the shooter; because authorities “had told me when I come in
(the courtroom), they wanted me to point out Davis. ..I remembered the officer getting shot, I had nightmares
about it.”

Kevin McQueen, another witness, said he initially testified against Davis to settle a score after the two men had
a confrontation in the Chatham County jail. “He got the best of me. I was mad at him.’’

McQueen said he lied to police when he told them that Davis had confessed to him. “There’s no truth to
those statements,’’ he said. In exchange for his testimony, McQueen said he received a lighter sentence
after being convicted of robbery.

Asked why he changed his story. “What did you expect to gain?”

“Peace of mind, I guess,’’ McQueen replied.

Jeffrey Sapp, an admitted narcotics dealer and friend of Davis, testified that he learned of the MacPhail
shooting when throngs of police officers came into his neighborhood to investigate the fatal shooting.

“I was scared. I told them I didn’t know nothing. It was 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning.’’ He said the officers
told him he had to come down to the police station for questioning. He said four or five
police officers surrounded him during the interview. “They were so emotional, upset
and angry,’’ and he told them to say Davis had confessed to him. ..

“I was so scared. I’d tell them anything they wanted to hear. .. They told me what happened. ..I wasn’t anywhere near the scene. They was in my face. They had bad breath. I just wanted to sign (the statement) and go.’’

Darrell Collins was 16-years-old at the time of the murder. He said he was with Davis and Sylvester “Red”
Coles, another man who other witnesses say initiated the confrontation with a man over an alcoholic
beverage outside a city pool hall when the trio had been playing pool.. Collins testified that he and Davis
were being “nosy” when they followed Coles and Larry Young who got into a “heated,’’ “loud,’’
argument. Collins testified that he heard Coles tell the man, “give me a beer, (expletive). You don’t know me
I’ll (expletive) smoke you. The man was scared and tried to get away.”

Prior to the confrontation, Collins testified that Coles had a gun, which Collins testified that he removed
from a car and hid behind a building.
Collins said he saw the police officer MacPhail come around the building and “I ran off.” He said he did
not see the shooting.
Collins testified that he lied against Davis because the police said they charge him with being an accessory
to murder. The investigating officers, he said, “got real mad.”

“I told them it was Red not Troy,’’ Collins testified, adding he changed his story during his interview with
police. “I was scared. That’s what they wanted me to say.’’

By mid-afternoon Wednesday, the Davis defense team concluded its witness testimony. The prosecution
called several police department detectives to rebut the previous testimony. The officers to the witness told
vastly different stories about how they obtained the eyewitnesses statements
and trial testimony.

Lt. Carl Ramey testified that Sapp volunteered a statement against Davis during the Davis investigation.
Ramey testified that Sapp flagged down his vehicle and said, “Y’all here because of Troy.’’

Ramey said he had didn’t know Sapp. He said Sapp told him that Craig Young talked to Davis who told him about the murder. He said he
never yelled at Sapp during the police interview and he didn’t tell him what to say. Ramey said Sapp volunteered other witnesses and his
statement was documented by a stenographer.

Sgt. John Wichcomb testified that he interviewed Antoine Williams during the homicide investigation.
He said he never coerced his testimony or threatened him.

Tina A. Brown is a freelance veteran journalist based in Savannah.

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Learning to be happy in the moment/Recession 101

Learning to Be Happy  in the Moment

NOBODY GAVE US A Recession 101 Course. Folks with jobs tend to tell us that we are not alone. Of course, they haven’t missed a paycheck and they still have health insurance. They aren’t on a deadline to find a gig that will pay all the bills.

I’m not jealous. But I wonder if I’d say the same things if I still had a full-time job. This period in my life kind of reminds me of what people say when you’ve lost a cherished loved one and they catch you wiping the tears away.

“They’re in a better place, baby.”

I’ve always felt that sort of empathy is nice but rarely satisfying. Other times, I notice when family and friends don’t understand why after living on your own for decades you aren’t begging for handouts or a permanent spot on the couch. They don’t get your need for reflection and significant time  for healing.

I tell them most days that `I’m learning to be happy in the moment.’

`I’m looking up and forward.’ And, my absolute favorite mantra is `times are tough by not impossible.’

Maybe, just maybe, God gave millions of us this time to rest after doggedly working our American butts off  for decades. Maybe it’s time for us to explore new things, places and ideas. Maybe it’s time for us to set a new agenda for the 21st Century combining history, experience and technology.

A terrific friend made me think about how I view this season in our lives. Yes, I’m filling my days in beautiful Savannah with as many writing assignments as I can. When I’m not writing and reporting, I’m up networking, promoting my book, volunteering, singing or walking off any negative thoughts that might creep inside my head on the beach.  I’ve even planted a garden so I won’t starve. I’m always thinking of what’s next?  And, please God, let those checks come on time so I can pay my rent.

My friend – an outstanding citizen of the world – plans to spend a couple of months driving through Europe.  I admit that I was surprised that he is planning another great escape at this time in his life. Folks looked at me like I was crazy when I packed my car and headed to Savannah.

Suddenly, I thought what should my next great adventure be? It’s more than creating a dynamic space for writers. That will just be the start.  I also want to study  film; acting; and motivational speaking. I’ve always wanted to be Zora Neale and Maya too.  Why not? Whose says I can’t dream bigger dreams? I’m already sure that if it’s God’s plan I’m headed to the next level.

Tonight, I felt like getting lost in my computer. I’m thinking of who will illustrate my next book. I’m teaching myself to quilt so that I can launch a community dialogue around the Patching of Healing Community AIDS project. I’m studying math and literature. I also want to help other writers realize their greatest potential. I’ve always had six or eight projects going at once, so why stop now.

For now at this very moment, I have a song and a prayer in my heart. I’m happy living in the moment.

Get off the fence: Black women are dying

I wrote “Crooked Road Straight: The Awakening of AIDS Activist Linda Jordan” because Black women in the U.S. are dying. Now, I’m looking for good men and women to ask their friends, bookclubs, schools, librarians, church leaders, youth groups, bookstores and community groups who work with this nation’s most vulnerable populations to buy it and share it. Get on the bandwagon. This is not an issue that we can ignore. Linda Jordan had a simple message: Together we can stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, all of us, whether we are rich or poor, negative or positive. It’s time to get off the fence and to take a stand for those who can’t or won’t speak up for themselves for as long as it takes. Linda and I started on this journey more than 12 years ago. She passed away. I need your help to continue the legacy of one of the first black women in the U.S. to put her family’s faces on HIV/AIDS prevention posters. Stand in the gap with me. Order this book at local and online bookstores. If you can’t afford it, go to your local libraries and ask them to order it. Then, all I ask is that you share Linda Jordan’s story with someone else. Talk about it in your circles. Together, we can stop the spread of HIV/AIDS here and abroad. For information about inviting the author to speak to your group: write contact@tabbrownpublishing.com or send me a tweet at A1TinaABrown.  Remember to pass the word on Facebook, Twitter and your favorite social media sites.

HIV/AIDS Education: Connecting to a New Generation

Teenage Girls Respond to HIV/AIDS Prevention book signing

Some suburban middle school teachers and librarians urged me to do it. I hadn’t thought of reaching out to the middle school population. But they said I would be missing a “grand opportunity” if I wasn’t reading excerpts of “Crooked Road Straight: The Awakening of AIDS Activist Linda Jordan” to middle school students.

“Middle school is about the time that girls began to experiment,” one teacher said.

I guess a lot has changed since I went to middle school. We didn’t talk much about sexual health back then. HIV-AIDS hadn’t yet made it a necessary topic.

My test group of eighth graders at Belizzi Middle School in Hartford nearly made me cry.

They were extraordinary listeners. That’s not to say that my other girls from the YWCA’s girls leadership program at Weaver and Windsor high schools, and the numerous adult book clubs weren’t equally as engaging.

The youngsters made me feel like I was connecting with a new generation.

Their curiosity gave me hope.

HIV-AIDS education is not dead.

I can’t wait for my next two workshops at Bulkeley High.

Can’t wait!!!

Read FREE Excerpts of “Crooked Road Straight: The Awakening of AIDS Activist Linda Jordan” on Feb. 7th National Black HIV AIDS Awareness Day.

It’s time to get aware.It’s time to stand up and speak out about HIV/AIDS is spreading in America.

I had my head in the sand until I realized that it could be me or somebody I knew. This disease won’t go away until we take action. “Crooked Road Straight: The Awakening of AIDS Activist Linda Jordan” is based upon 10 years of research. Check out the free samples at www.crookedroadstraight.comon Feb. 7th. Let’s get the word out about being safe. PASS the Blog!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!