Troy Davis' Execution Eve Sees Last-Minute Efforts To Save His Life
A small delegation of supporters took the long walk from the prison entrance to death row, to a room where Troy Davis stood in his white-and-blue-striped prison uniform and a pair of prison-issued loafers on his feet.
"We circled around him and we prayed," said Edward DuBose, president of the Georgia State Conference of the N.A.A.C.P. "I looked in his eyes and I saw peace, I saw a man of faith."
Early this morning, before word came down from the state pardon board that Davis would not be granted clemency for the 1989 murder of a police officer, his three sisters and a nephew made the early morning trek to the prison. They walked in with hope that some miracle would stave off the execution, scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m. They left saddened, and retreated from the prison grounds.
"They are hanging on," DuBose said about 6:30 on Tuesday evening. "But clearly they are emotionally shocked."
While the Davis family prepared for the end of what has been a decades-long fight to prove Davis' innocence, another family rejoiced.
"That's what we wanted, and that's what we got," Anneliese MacPhail, the victim's mother, told the Associated Press. "We wanted to get it over with, and for him to get his punishment."
"Justice was finally served for my father," said Mark MacPhail Jr., the son of the dead officer, Mark MacPhail.
But for Troy Davis' family and his supporters, the looming finality of the board's decision to carry out his execution sent a very different message.
"It is bigger than Troy. It really reflects the attitude of a country and a state that still sees black life as meaningless," said Edward DuBose. "That is the only conclusion that you could come away with from the decision made by the parole board."
DuBose described Davis as "upbeat" and more sociable than his visitors. DuBose said the group met for about 30 minutes with Davis, who told his story as he always had, maintaining that he was innocent and that he wanted the world to know it. No weapon was ever found at the scene that night back in 1989, in a dark Burger King parking lot where a police officer was gunned down. In the decades since, witnesses have recanted their stories implicating Davis, casting further doubt on his guilt.
"He told us whether he's executed or not, to carry the message to the people, to keep the faith and continue to challenge the system for people, not just his case, but those just like him," DuBose said. "From a man's point of view, I held back tears as best I could. But not tears of sadness for him, if you can imagine that, tears of sadness for this moment for all of us."
Meanwhile, as the state moves closer to Davis' execution, there are still groups fighting to save his life, albeit against improbable odds.
“We’re going to fight to the very end,” said Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorOfChange.org, a web-based grassroots organization that rallies behind causes that affect African Americans. "Not doing anything isn't going to get us any type of movement. The only way we are going to have some sort to success is to continue to press forward. The fact that Troy Davis hasn't already been executed in the state of Georgia is a testament to the activists that have already spoken out and the lawyers and organizations that haven't given up."
Robinson said that ColorOfChange "will continue to fight this decision and tell Troy's story as long as we can," in spite of the board's decision. "It is unimaginable how they could have come to this decision in the face of all the evidence which indicates that Troy Davis didn't commit the crime of which he was accused," he said.
Robinson said that more than 100,000 ColorOfChange members "clearly and strongly said that killing a man who may be innocent is not justice" and that the group intended to ask the board to reconsider.
"The identification procedures used to convict Davis would never pass muster today," said Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project, which is one of the 66 members of the Innocence Network that has exonerated more than 300 wrongfully convicted individuals. "For the sake of the integrity of the criminal justice system, we sincerely hope that the Board of Pardons and Paroles will stay Troy’s execution at least long enough to hear from an expert on memory and identification who can explain the many reasons why Davis may have been misidentified."
The N.A.A.C.P said it would consider asking President Barack Obama to intervene, though he has no jurisdiction in the state's decision. The Rev. Al Sharpton is planning to hold a vigil in Jackson on Wednesday.
Davis, convicted of the 1989 killing of the off-duty Savannah police officer, has steadfastly maintained his innocence. In the decades since his conviction, his case has gained the support of former President Jimmy Carter, former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, one-time FBI Director William Sessions, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Pope Benedict XVI.
Earlier this year the U.S. Supreme Court turned down what likely was Davis' last set of appeals. In 2009, Davis, by filing an original writ of habeas corpus to the Supreme Court, convinced the justices to order a federal court in Georgia to review new evidence that Davis said would establish his innocence. By then, according to reports, several of the witnesses had recanted their earlier testimony that Davis had gunned down officer MacPhail in a Burger King parking lot that night 20 years earlier.
The new hearing in June of 2010 gave Davis a chance to present his new evidence in his defense. He chose not to take the stand or call on witnesses who had given statements on his behalf. The trial judge concluded that Davis' evidence was "largely smoke and mirrors," according to a New York Times article from earlier this year. The Supreme Court refused to review Moore's ruling.
"I wanted to believe that we had abandoned the Old South, but the decision by the parole board not only reflects that we have not abandoned the Old South, but we have not even left the days of Jim Crow," said DuBose, who at 53 said he can recall the last days of cradle-to-grave segregation in Georgia.
"I think it's a message that they said during Jim Crow: Stay in your place. It is a message to every African American, whether you are guilty or innocent, that there is a place for you and you need to stay in it."