Troy Davis Execution Approaches As Calls For Clemency Continue
Jason Cherkis contributed reporting for this article.
JACKSON, Ga. -- Behind razor wire and thick concrete walls, Troy Davis spent what may be his final hours Wednesday with friends and family, awaiting his execution at 7 p.m. for the murder of a police officer over 20 years ago, a crime he maintains was committed by another man.
"Troy is in good spirits," said Amnesty International spokeswoman Wende Gozan Brown, who visited with Davis on Tuesday, after he received news that a final plea for clemency to a state pardons board had been rejected. "He is steadfastly maintaining his innocence, as he always has."
Davis's pending execution has sparked an extraordinary outcry nationally and internationally that continued Wednesday, with thousands of people expected to participate in evening protests and vigils at Georgia's death row prison and the state capitol. By early afternoon, dozens of protesters were already singing and praying in a small cordoned-off area on the prison grounds.
Earlier this week, the state's pardons board was bombarded by hundreds of thousands of petitions to spare Davis's life, including calls from former FBI director William Sessions and Bob Barr, a four-term Republican congressman from Georgia and death penalty supporter. Many of those opposed to the execution noted the lack of physical evidence tying Davis to the crime and the recantation of critical eyewitness, many of whom told attorneys for Davis that they had been pressured by police to testify that Davis was the shooter.
"Imposing an irreversible sentence of death on the skimpiest of evidence will not serve the interest of justice," Barr wrote in an editorial on the case last Wednesday.
On Wednesday morning, Davis offered to submit to a lie detector test, but the request was denied by prison officials. "I guess Troy Davis felt like he had enough witness testimony in his favor that he felt that the polygraph would not be necessary," said Laura Moye, director of Amnesty International's U.S. death penalty abolition campaign, when asked why Davis had not submitted to a polygraph before.
The Davis defense's last-minute petition to the Superior Court was rejected by a state judge late Wednesday afternoon.
As the hours until the execution dwindled, calls for clemency continued from around the nation and the world, including from a group of former death row wardens, who wrote to Georgia authorities calling on them to halt the death sentence due to doubts about Davis's guilt. Among the group was the former warden in charge of the Georgia death chamber.
"While most of the prisoners whose executions we participated in accepted responsibility for the crimes for which they were punished, some of us have also executed prisoners who maintained their innocence until the end," the wardens wrote in a press release. "It is those cases that are most haunting to an executioner."
Meanwhile, the family of the murdered policeman, Mark MacPhail, and the case's original prosecutor have argued strenuously for Davis's execution, and have asserted that there is no doubt that he is guilty of the murder.
Joan MacPhail-Harris, the officer's widow, said this week that Davis "has had ample time to prove his innocence" and failed to do so, according to the Associated Press. She and MacPhail's children urged the pardons board to deny Davis's petition for clemency this week and plan to attend the execution.
An extraordinary hearing last year ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court gave Davis the rare opportunity to present evidence of his innocence as part of a petition for a new trial. The judge overseeing the hearing ruled that the state's case against Davis "may not be ironclad" and agreed that Davis had raised some doubts about his conviction, but concluded that he had not provided the court with compelling evidence of his innocence and denied the request for a retrial.
Legal experts, however, noted that despite the judge's ruling, lingering doubts over Davis's guilt will likely mean that concerns over whether the state executed the wrong man will never be resolved.
"What worries me now is that we're looking at a martyr," said Anne Emanuel, a death penalty expert and law professor at Georgia State University. "This is the kind of case that troubles people that otherwise support the death penalty."
HuffPost's Ryan Grim reports:
Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat, conspicuously refused to use the term execution in a statement responding to the death of Troy Davis. “I offer my thoughts, prayers and condolences to the family of Troy Anthony Davis, a man killed by the citizens of Georgia despite a lack of moral certainty as to his guilt," said Johnson.
Asked by MSNBC's Ed Schultz if he "unequivocally" believed that Georgia had just executed an innocent man, NAACP head Ben Jealous, who has followed the case for 15 years, said simply: "Absolutely."
|@ thinkprogress : "May God have mercy on your souls. May God bless your souls." -- Troy Davis' last words to his executioners|
Georgia inmate Troy Davis was executed Wednesday night for the 1989 murder of Mark MacPhail, an off-duty Savannah police officer.
Davis died at 11:08 p.m. ET, according to a prison official. The execution was about four hours later than initially scheduled, because prison officials waited for a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Davis' request for a stay.
Full story here.
|@ cnnbrk : Convicted cop killer Troy Davis was executed by injection in Georgia at 11:08 ET after Supreme Court denies stay http://t.co/Cyl9Rp1C|
|@ mpoppel : Both CNN and NYT are reporting that Davis is being executed at this moment. Should be over in a few minutes.|
|@ RepJohnLewis : Today, we are all Troy Anthony Davis. Tonight, a little piece of all of us will die.|
|@ AntDeRosa : MSNBC is reporting that the execution is mid-way through.|
HuffPost's Jason Cherkis reports:
Laura Moye, the organizer with Amnesty International, is still on the prison grounds. "We are just profoundly saddened and upset," she said.A prayer circle had formed around the Davis family earlier in the evening. It continues.
"We knew that it was a long shot," Moye said. "Troy Davis has always had difficult odds. He's faced executions three times...We always held on to our hope. We got this far by believing in the power of human rights. Now it seems there's nothing that can intervene to stop this execution."
There's still a couple hundred protesters and Davis supporters in attendance. The chanting has died down. "People are trying to rally around this family. Everybody wants to be there standing in support of the Davis family," Moye explained. "A lot of people standing in disbelief."
Next steps are vague. A boycott of Georgia? A protest in the coming weeks. Who knows.
Moye said: "What is a miracle in this case is so many people have raised their voices."
|@ mpoppel : CNN reporting, citing prison officials, that execution of Davis will begin just after 11 pm ET|
|@ thinkprogress : Rep Hank Johnson D-GA on Troy Davis: "There are no words. It's a sad day for my state of Georgia, for America" (via @jamiedupree )|
|@ thinkprogress : VIDEO: Protesters react to SCOTUS decision: "We are Troy Davis" http://t.co/4GpQXiEN|
|@ thinkprogress : RT @TPJustice: The fact that there were no published dissents does not mean that all nine justices opposed the stay.|
|@ thinkprogress : MSNBC reports that Troy Davis execution is expected in the next 20 to 30 minutes #toomuchdoubt|
The U.S. Supreme Court decision to deny the stay of execution can be viewed here.
|@ Reuters : FLASH: U.S. SUPREME COURT REJECTS STAY OF EXECUTION FOR GEORGIA DEATH ROW INMATE IN HIGH-PROFILE CASE|
|@ BreakingNews : US Supreme Court denies request for stay of execution for Georgia inmate Troy Davis - wire services|
From Athens, GA Patch:
The Arch is the usual place of protest in Athens.
On Wednesday night, about 50 people gathered there with signs to protest the impending execution of Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis, convicted 22 years ago of murdering a Savannah policeman.
Full story here.
|@ Edpilkington : Candlelit vigil now being held opposite #TroyDavis prison. One side of road - candals, other side Swat teams with tear gas rifles|
|@ NickKristof : When smart people debate whether or not a man should be executed, that's a good reason not to execute him. #TroyDavis.|
|@ MikeSacksHP : Protesters calling it a night, regrouping at All Soul's Church here in DC at 7pm tomorrow. Don't expect the ruling to wait until then.|
|@ MikeSacksHP : #SCOTUS press office says still no developments. Protesters latest chant: "Supreme Court let's face it: death penalty is racist!"|
|@ rolandsmartin : CNN's Jeffrey Toobin says this is an "unusually" long deliberation by the U.S. Supreme Court #troydavis|
|@ CBSAndrew : If Scotus stays #TroyDavis execution tonight, it would be third in less than one week, virtually unparalleled in history of death penalty.|
|@ kimseverson : Family is being prepared for news, said Larry Cox of Amnesty International. #TroyDavis. No word on what that news will be.|
|@ MikeSacksHP : Protesters chanting "we are Troy Davis, I am Troy Davis" loudly in the rain in front of the Court. http://t.co/FdUTrGvG|
ABC reports on the temporary euphoria of the crowd outside the prison where Troy Davis is being held:
At 7:05 p.m., five minutes after his scheduled death, Davis' supporters erupted in cheers, hugs and tears outside the jail in Jackson, Ga., as supporters believed Davis had been saved from the death penalty. But Davis was granted only a temporary reprieve as the Supreme Court considers the decision.
The warrant for Davis' execution is valid until Sept. 28. The Georgia Resource Center, part of Davis' legal defense team, said it was unsure how long the delay would last.