Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Troy Davis denied clemency 1 day before execution

BY GREG BLUESTEIN - Associated Press | Sept. 20, 2011

ATLANTA — Georgia's board of pardons rejected a last-ditch clemency
bid from death row inmate Troy Davis on Tuesday, one day before his
scheduled execution, despite support from figures including an
ex-president and a former FBI director for the claim that he was wrongly
convicted of killing a police officer in 1989.

Davis is scheduled to die Wednesday at 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT) by injection
for killing off-duty Savannah officer Mark MacPhail, who was shot dead
while rushing to help a homeless man being attacked. It is the fourth time
in four years that Davis' execution has been scheduled by Georgia

"Justice was finally served for my father," said Mark MacPhail Jr., who
was an infant when his father was gunned down. "The truth was finally

The decision appeared to leave Davis with little chance of avoiding his
execution date. Defense attorney Jason Ewart has said that the pardons
board was likely Davis' last option, but he didn't rule out filing another
legal appeal.

Kim Davis, the inmate's sister, declined immediate comment on the
decision. But his supporters said they will push the pardons board to
reconsider the case and urge prison workers to strike or call in sick on
Wednesday to prevent Davis' execution. They also will push Savannah
prosecutors to block the execution.

"This is a civil rights violation and a human rights violation in the
worst way," said the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who spoke to the board on
Davis' behalf on Monday. "There's too much doubt for this execution to

Georgia's Board of Pardons and Paroles said it considered "the totality of
the information presented" before deciding to deny clemency.

"The Board members have not taken their responsibility lightly and
certainly understand the emotions attached to a death penalty case," the
five-person panel said in a statement.

Davis' lawyers have long argued Davis was a victim of mistaken identity.
But prosecutors say they have no doubt that they charged the right person
with the crime.

Among those who supported Davis' clemency request are former president
Jimmy Carter and Pope Benedict XVI. A host of conservative figures have
also advocated on his behalf, including former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr,
ex-Justice Department official Larry Thompson and one-time FBI Director
William Sessions.

MacPhail was shot to death Aug. 19, 1989, after coming to the aid of Larry
Young, a homeless man who was pistol-whipped in a Burger King parking lot.
Prosecutors say Davis was with another man who was demanding that Young
give him a beer when Davis pulled out a handgun and bashed Young with it.
When MacPhail arrived to help, they say Davis had a smirk on his face when
he shot the officer to death.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said it was
considering asking President Barack Obama to intervene. Obama cannot grant
Davis clemency because Davis was convicted in state court, but could
potentially halt the execution by asking for an investigation into a
federal issue if one exists, according to Richard Dieter, executive
director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

Dieter said he thought it was unlikely Obama would intervene.

Civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton, who plans to hold a vigil at the
state prison in Jackson on Wednesday, called on supporters to urge Chatham
County District Attorney Larry Chisolm to block the execution.

"This is probably the most egregious injustice I have seen in a long time,
to set a precedent that a man can be executed when the evidence against
him has mostly been recanted," said Sharpton. "It's unthinkable."

Chisolm's spokeswoman, Alicia Johnson, did not immediately return calls
seeking comment Tuesday. But Chisolm has said it's unlikely he will seek
to intervene.

"What stands between the defendant and execution is the Board of Pardons
and Paroles," Chisolm said on Friday. "And I think whatever decision they
make in the case will probably be the final decision."

Davis has captured worldwide attention because of the doubt his supporters
have raised over whether he killed MacPhail. Several of the witnesses who
helped convict Davis at his 1991 trial have backed off their testimony or
recanted. Others who did not testify say another man at the scene admitted
to the shooting.

The U.S. Supreme Court even granted Davis a hearing last year to prove his
innocence, the first time it had done so for a death row inmate in at
least 50 years. But in that June 2010 hearing, Davis couldn't convince a
federal judge to grant him a new trial. The Supreme Court did not review
his case. Federal appeals courts and the Georgia Supreme Court have upheld
his conviction, leaving the parole board as his last chance.

MacPhail's relatives said they were relieved by the decision. "That's what
we wanted, and that's what we got," said Anneliese MacPhail, the victim's
mother. "We wanted to get it over with, and for him to get his

Amnesty International USA director Larry Cox called the pardon board's
decision "unconscionable."

"Should Troy Davis be executed, Georgia may well have executed an innocent
man and in so doing discredited the justice system," Cox said.

Amnesty International and the NAACP have scheduled a demonstration at
Tuesday night on the steps of the Georgia Capitol.

Davis' legal team said in a statement it was "incredibly disappointed" by
the board's decision.

"The death penalty should not be exercised where doubt exists about the
guilt of the accused. The Board did not follow that standard here," their
statement said. "The state's case against Mr. Davis, based largely on
discredited eyewitness testimony and an inaccurate ballistics report,
cannot resolve the significant, lingering doubts that exist here."


Associated Press writers Kate Brumback in Atlanta and Russ Bynum in
Savannah contributed to this story.

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