Georgia Man Hopes High Court Will Spare His Life

Published June 22, 2009

Thousands of people in 43 U.S. states and on five continents around the world are expected to join hands today, symbolically, to protest the death sentence of Georgia death-row inmate Troy Davis.  According to Amnesty International, the “Global Day of Action” (find a rally near you) will bring attention – and hopefully pressure – on the state of Georgia to reconsider its decision.

“With Troy’s case you have three execution dates that have come and gone,” Jared Feuer, Southern Regional Director for Amnesty International told BET.com, pointing out that Davis has supporters all around the world, including former President Jimmy Carter, the Pope and former Republican Congressman Bob Barr.

“That’s unusual. There have been three stays. The public attention and pressure on this case is making a difference. There have been more than half a million petitions and letters from all around the world.”

Feuer says Amnesty International got involved with Davis' case about six years ago because Davis was convicted without the presence of any physical evidence. He said no murder weapon was ever found and the case against him was built solely on witness testimony and several of those contained inconsistencies.  In fact, seven of the nine witnesses, he adds, have recanted their statements.

"This case brings front and center all the problems with our criminal justice system," says Feuer. "We’ve been astonished by how focused the courts are on finality and not on getting it right."


Organizers of today's rally say they chose May 19 because it is Troy's mother's birthday, but also because today's rally comes a few days after Davis' last stay of execution ended last Friday. They're hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will provide him with yet another chance to prove that he’s not a killer.

Davis is accused of shooting to death a 27-year-old off-duty Savannah, Ga., police officer 20 years ago.  His attorneys are asking that the case be remanded to a federal judge for a hearing on his claims of innocence.

“Davis’ new evidence eviscerates the state’s case against him,” the filing said. “Despite substantial new evidence of his innocence, no court has ever held a hearing to assess the scores of new witnesses that show Mr. Davis is innocent.” It would be unconstitutional to put Davis to death, without granting him a “full and fair hearing in which he could make a truly persuasive demonstration that he is actually innocent,” according to the petition.

Prosecutors say they are sure that Davis, 40, who has been behind bars for 17 years after being convicted of killing Officer Mark Allen MacPhail, is the triggerman. He is accused of shooting MacPhail, a former Army Ranger, three times before he could draw his weapon. 

However, Davis’ defenders point out that over the years an astounding nine state witnesses have recanted their testimonies, while other witnesses have named Sylvester “Redd” Coles as the shooter. Coles, who was at the scene at the time of the shooting, was the first person to finger Davis for the crime.

Jason Ewart, one of Davis’ lawyers, said that the high court is his client’s last resort.

“This is the last court that we can go to,” Ewart said. “It’s something that’s not often granted, but we think this is an exceptional case.”

Among those calling to spare Davis from lethal injection are former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI and former FBI Director William Sessions. In addition, the human rights group Amnesty International is holding a rally for Davis today at the State Capitol in Atlanta.

Written by Tanu Henry, BET.com

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