Time is running out for death row inmate Troy Davis as he awaits the final decision of the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles following a clemency hearing scheduled to conclude Monday afternoon.
Both Davis’ defense team and the state’s prosecution will be given time to present their evidence at Monday’s hearing and at the conclusion, a final decision will be made on whether Davis’ Sept. 21 execution date will stand.
Advocates are hopeful that this last-ditch effort to save Davis’ life will mark a success for both Davis and their campaigns to bring awareness to the issue of the death penalty.
“The legal system has been very hampered by a narrow focus on procedure and process and has ignored the fundamental question of whether the State of Georgia can really rely on the conviction and death sentencing of Troy Davis anymore,” Amnesty International Death Penalty Abolition Campaign Director Laura Moye told BET.com. “This board has wide enough discretion that they can really look at the doubts and decide whether they feel comfortable allowing the execution when there is so much doubt.”
Scores of protesters from various organizations have gathered in Georgia to support Davis’ bid to have his death sentence commuted and the case has attracted global attention as critics say there is too much doubt associated with Davis’ conviction to put him to death.
In 1991, Davis was convicted of murder in the shooting death of a Georgia police officer. His conviction rested solely upon eyewitness testimony and all but two of the original non-police witnesses have recanted or contradicted their testimony implicating Davis as the shooter. Additionally, no murder weapon was ever found nor is there any DNA evidence or fingerprints linking Davis to the crime.
NAACP President Ben Jealous said that the case has a personal significance for both himself and the organization. “Troy’s family are NAACP members,” Jealous told BET.com. “When I was a young organizer I met Troy’s sister 15 years ago and she made me promise that if she produced the evidence, I would make sure people fought hard for his case, and I plan to keep that promise.”
In addition to his personal pledge, Jealous says the case has significance for everyone, especially African-Americans, given that both Davis and the District Attorney, Larry Chisolm, are Black men.
“We’ve got a responsibility to hold our Black leaders accountable and D.A. Chisolm knows better. He ran as a reform candidate he received a lot of support from civil rights leaders. He knows that the justice system in Savannah was deeply broken when Troy Davis was put on death row. Frankly, he knows he should reopen the case,” Jealous said.
Although District Attorney Larry Chisolm’s office said he would not make an official comment on the case until after the resolution of Monday’s clemency hearing, former Chatham County district attorney Spencer Lawton spoke out about the case in 2008 and made his feelings about Davis’ guilt known publicly.
"I think Davis is guilty. I think he shot a police officer to death. In cold blood," Lawton told Georgia news station WTOC.
"What frustrates me is when they say things that just aren't true," Lawton said speaking of the organizations advocating in favor of Davis’ clemency. "I say they are wrong, and I am as sorry as I could be about that. It's just those are not the facts. It offends me. Next time you are at one of these things, ask for a show of hands of the people who have looked at the record and not just what they have been told about it. You won't see it," Lawton said.
(Photo: REUTERS/John Amis)