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Miami Law Students Gather Signatures to Save a Life

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Miami Law students Beth Gordon, Gretchen Cothron and Nicole Devinette

Students Beth Gordon, Gretchen Cothron and Nicole Devinette give out information on the Troy Davis case while on The Bricks. (Photo: Miami Law) Full-Size Photo

Miami Law students dressed in blue on Thursday to express their support for Troy Davis, a man who was convicted in 1991 for shooting an off-duty officer in 1989. Both the Miami Innocence Project and the Capital Defense Project at Miami Law helped Amnesty International and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to gather signatures in opposition of Davis' death sentence.

Today is the last day to petition the clemency board to commute Davis' sentence to life. As of Thursday, The Florida Times-Union reported that more than 600,000 petitions have been signed.

"In the wake of presidential candidate Rick Perry's execution of an innocent man, and subsequent attempts to cover it up, we fear that Georgia may be about to make the same mistake," said Gretchen Cothron, co-student director at Miami's Wrongful Conviction Project. The Georgia clemency board meets on Monday to decide on Davis' execution, which is set for Sept. 21 at 7 p.m.

Wrongful Conviction Project members argue that several witnesses who originally testified against Davis have all recanted their statements, except for Sylvester Coles. "Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in more than 75 percent of convictions overturned through DNA testing," stated a report by the national Innocence Project organization.

"This guy's life has been destroyed and now they want to take it away completely," said Nicole Devinette, who is also co-student director at Miami's Wrongful Conviction Project. She points out that Davis has already been incarcerated for more than 20 years. "It just sounds bogus."

The Troy Davis Project is one of many cases the Miami Innocence Project and The Capital Defense Project have taken on this fall. Last week, The Capital Defense Project worked to save the life of Manuel Valle, a 61-years old who was convicted of killing a Coral Gables police officer during a traffic stop 33 years ago.

On Oct. 28, the law school will host a Wrongful Convictions panel to discuss the causal factors of erroneous convictions, police corruption in Miami, false eyewitness testimony and confessions.

For more information and to sign the petition, go to Amnesty International.