Posted Sept. 24, 2008 – In dramatic fashion, the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday night halted the execution of Troy Anthony Davis, the 39-year-old Georgia man whose life everybody from the Rev. Al Sharpton to Pope Benedict XVI had pleaded with the state to spare.
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The NAACP, Amnesty International, South African Nobel Prize-winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu and a host of other international human rights leaders and organizations had argued that it was the state of Georgia, and the United States in general, that actually was on trial. Although convicted in 1991 of killing a 27-year-old Savannah, Ga., police officer and sentenced to die by lethal injection, several of the prosecution’s lead witnesses have since recanted their stories, leaving the state with a conspicuously flimsy case to justify execution. There had been no murder weapon tying Davis to the shooting death of Officer Mark Allen McPhail, no fingerprints and not a single drop of DNA. The NAACP had said that Georgia would be guilty of perpetrating a modern-day lynching if it carried out Davis’ death sentence.
With less than two hours before Davis was to be put to death, the condemned man’s family, friends and supporters learned that the nation’s highest court had spared Davis’ life – at least temporarily. According to The Associated Press, many of those who had fought for many years for a new trial cried, cheered and danced outside the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson (where they had gathered to comfort one another in the event of his execution) after learning of the Supreme Court’s decision, which followed two days of rejections – by the state Board of Paroles and Pardons and the Georgia Supreme Court. “I’ve been praying for this moment forever,” said Davis’s sister and most outspoken proponent, Martina Correia. Davis’ mother, Virginia Davis, said God had answered their prayers.
But everybody’s prayers weren’t answered as 7 p.m. came and went and Davis was still alive. The slain officer’s sister, Annelie Reaves, said her family was outraged. “It should have happened today,” she said, “but justice will be served.”
This was the second time in two years that Davis slipped the proverbial hangman’s noose. In 2007, the state Board of Pardons and Paroles stayed his execution with less than a day left before he was to die. On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court justices will meet to decide whether to hear Davis’ appeal of a ruling issued by the Georgia Supreme Court in March. In that 4-3 decision, the state Supreme Court rejected Davis’ bid for a new trial or a court hearing to present new evidence. In its order, AP reports, the U.S. Supreme Court said if the justices decline to hear Davis’ case, “this stay shall terminate automatically.” If the court agrees to hear the case, the stay will remain in force until the high court issues its ultimate ruling.
“One week may not seem like a long time, but when you have only two hours to live it’s a lifetime,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said.
Did the Supreme Court do the right thing. Do you think his life will be spared permanently? Have your say by click on "Discuss Now," on the upper right.