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Federal appeals court rules death row inmate must appeal directly to Supreme Court

The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] rejected a petition [ruling, PDF] from Troy Anthony Davis [advocacy website; JURIST news archive] on Friday for a certificate of appealability (COA), ruling that Davis must appeal his case directly to the US Supreme Court [official website]. Davis was seeking a COA to appeal the US District Court for the Southern District of Georgia [official website] September decision [order part 1, PDF; part 2, PDF; JURIST report] refusing his habeas corpus petition. In August 2009, the Supreme Court ordered [text, PDF; JURIST report] the district court to review Davis' case. He had filed an original writ of habeas corpus [cert. petition, PDF] directly in the Supreme Court. In its ruling on Friday, the federal appellate court noted that "[p]ursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c) [Cornell LII materials], a habeas petitioner may not appeal from a district court's adverse ruling unless a circuit justice or judge issues a COA." In addition, the court said:

If this court granted Davis's request for a COA and reviewed the district court's order at this juncture, as Davis requests, we would effectively be restoring his remedies in federal court, in complete contradiction to the express intent of Congress. In effect, we would be nullifying our previous decision denying Davis leave to file a successive habeas petition. We decline to do that.
In footnote 1 of the district court's September decision, the court called the jurisdictional effects of its decision "unclear," but said Davis would likely have to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court.

In October 2008, the Eleventh Circuit granted Davis a provisional stay of execution [JURIST report], directing the parties to address through briefs whether Davis can meet the stringent requirements of federal law that would permit him to file a second habeas corpus petition for federal review of his case. The Supreme Court had rejected [JURIST report] Davis' petition for certiorari appealing his death sentence earlier that month, lifting their own stay on his execution. The court had previously stayed [JURIST report] Davis' execution and had also previously denied a petition for certiorari in the case. Davis has been on death row since 1991 for allegedly murdering [Savannah Morning News report] an off-duty Savannah, Georgia, police officer in 1989.

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