Seen But Not Heard: An Argument for Granting Evidentiary Hearings to Weigh the Credibility of Recanted Testimony
The case of Troy Davis shows how difficult it is for a
convicted criminal defendant to obtain postconviction
review of witness recantations. Convicted of murder on
the testimony of nine eyewitnesses, Davis spent over a
decade petitioning for judicial review of the recantations of
seven of those witnesses before the U.S. Supreme Court
ordered an evidentiary hearing in 2009. Concurrently, the
DNA revolution continued to prove the innocence of an
increasing number of convicted inmates across the nation,
and the majority of those convictions had relied on
eyewitness testimony. If these scientific advances suggest
that eyewitness identification is not as reliable as once
thought, then the traditional judicial skepticism of
eyewitness recantations is an outmoded vehicle that
inhibits truth-seeking and disserves criminal justice.
This Note argues that Georgia courts should more
readily grant evidentiary hearings for a criminal
defendant who files an extraordinary motion for new trial,
but only when the motion is based on witness recantations
and the defendant's conviction relied primarily on
eyewitness testimony. To achieve this end, the General
Assembly should amend the Criminal Code so that courts
in the future weigh a recanting witness's credibility
against the testimony offered at trial. By doing so,
Georgia can serve as a model for other states. Otherwise,
in the absence of compelling physical evidence against a
defendant, ignoring recantations of trial testimony
encourages additional appeals, diminishes social
confidence in the courts, and ultimately fails to achieve the
finality that the criminal justice system seeks.
Hill, Michael M.
"Seen But Not Heard: An Argument for Granting Evidentiary Hearings to Weigh the Credibility of Recanted Testimony,"
Georgia Law Review: Vol. 46:
1, Article 6.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/glr/vol46/iss1/6