SAVANNAH — Attorneys for Troy Anthony Davis are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule a federal judge who decided last year the Georgia death row inmate failed to clear his name after getting a rare chance to prove his innocence.
Davis' latest appeal, filed Friday, says the U.S. District Court judge ordered by the Supreme Court to hear his innocence claim last year "evinced a clear hostility to Mr. Davis and his claims throughout the hearing."
Davis has long said he could prove he was wrongly convicted of the 1989 slaying of off-duty Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail if a court agreed to hear new evidence.
The Supreme Court in late 2009 ordered U.S. District Court Judge William T. Moore Jr. in Savannah to preside over such a hearing. Moore heard two days of testimony in June.
In August, the judge ruled evidence presented by Davis' attorneys wasn't nearly strong enough to prove he's innocent. He wrote that while the evidence casts some additional doubt on Davis' conviction, "it is largely smoke and mirrors."
In their latest appeal, Davis' lawyers say the judge was wrong in refusing to hear from witnesses who say another man later confessed to MacPhail's killing.
They say the judge should have ruled that other testimony casting doubt on the case would have been sufficient to sway reasonable jurors from convicting Davis.
"The evidence, new and old, establishes that Mr. Davis is innocent by any reasonable standard," Davis' attorneys wrote.
A rejection by the Supreme Court would clear the way for Georgia officials to resume planning Davis' execution.
Still, his case has taken a number of unexpected turns over the years. Davis has been scheduled for execution three times since 2007, but was spared each time by courts agreeing to take another look at his case.
Davis' lawyers tried to challenge Moore's ruling last year in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. That court refused to hear Davis' appeal, saying he must go straight to the Supreme Court because it ordered the hearing on his innocence claim.
Davis' lawyers are asking the Supreme Court to return the case to the 11th Circuit. But they also filed arguments challenging Moore's opinion in case the Supreme Court refuses to return the case to the lower appellate court.
MacPhail was working off-duty at a Savannah bus station on Aug. 19, 1989, when he was shot twice after rushing to help a homeless man who had been attacked. Eyewitnesses identified Davis as the shooter at his trial, but no physical evidence tied him to the slaying.
Davis' case has attracted international attention, including support from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Amnesty International and dignitaries such as former President Jimmy Carter and Pope Benedict XVI.