Ga. inmate loses bid to stay execution for ’89 slaying
Parole board denies lawyers’ last-ditch effort
ATLANTA - Troy Davis, whose death row case ignited an international campaign to save his life, has lost what appeared to be his last attempt to avoid execution by lethal injection today.
Rejecting pleas by Davis’s lawyers that shaky witness testimony and a lack of physical evidence presented enough doubt about his guilt to spare him death, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles ruled yesterday that Davis, 42, should die for killing Mark MacPhail, an off-duty police officer, in a Savannah parking lot in 1989.
“He has had ample time to prove his innocence, and he is not innocent,’’ said MacPhail’s widow, Joan MacPhail-Harris. “We have laws in this land so that there is not chaos. We are not killing Troy because we want to. We’re trying to execute him because he was punished.’’
She, MacPhail’s mother, and the couple’s two grown children were tearful after the hearing on Monday, pleading exhaustion.
“I’m not for blood. I’m for justice,’’ said his mother, Anneliese MacPhail. “We have been through hell, my family.’’
The family of Davis, who had gathered in an Atlanta hotel to await the decision, learned that he would be put to death from members of his legal team and Amnesty International.
“I just left the room, it’s very quiet up there,’’ said Wende Gozan Brown, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International, who was on her way to visit Davis in prison.
A vigil was planned for last night on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol.
The case has been a slow and convoluted exercise in legal maneuvering and death penalty politics. It has included last-minute stays and a rare Supreme Court decision.
Because Georgia’s governor has no power to stay executions, the parole board was the last hope for Davis.
“I don’t see any avenues to the Supreme Court,’’ said Anne S. Emanuel, a law professor at Georgia State University who has formally reviewed the case and found it too weak to merit the death penalty. “There’s nothing else apparent.’’
The last-ditch effort to spare Davis’s life produced a widespread reaction among people who believe there was too much doubt to execute him.
More than 630,000 letters asking the board to stay the execution were delivered by Amnesty International last Friday. The list of people asking that the Georgia parole board offer clemency included Jimmy Carter, the former president; Archbishop Desmond Tutu; 51 members of Congress; entertainment figures like Cee Lo Green; and death penalty supporters, including William S. Sessions, a former FBI director.
On Friday, more than 3,000 people gathered at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, in the heart of Martin Luther King Jr.’s former neighborhood, for a prayer vigil and protest.
This is the fourth time Davis has faced the death penalty. The state parole board granted him a stay in 2007 as he was preparing for his final hours, saying the execution should not proceed unless its members “are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused.’’ The board has since added three new members.
In 2008, his execution was about 90 minutes away when the Supreme Court stepped in. Although the court kept Davis from execution, it later declined to hear the case.
In the week before his third execution date, the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit issued a stay of execution to consider arguments from his lawyer that new testimony that could prove his innocence had not been considered.
The appeals court denied the argument but allowed time for Davis to take his argument directly to the Supreme Court, which ordered a federal court to once again examine new testimony.
But in June, a federal district court judge in Savannah said his legal team had failed to demonstrate his innocence, setting the stage for this latest execution date.
On Monday, Davis’s lawyers laid out a case of mistaken identity. Information was presented from several witnesses who said they had been pressured by police and changed their testimony, although others stood by their original testimony.
Throughout the ups and downs of the case, members of both families have attended all the legal proceedings.
Davis’s sister, Martina Correia, a former soldier who made saving him her life’s work and who is weak from fighting breast cancer, was in the hearing Monday.
So were members of MacPhail’s family, who testified toward the end of the hearing.
“A future was taken from me,’’ said his daughter, Madison, 24. “Not just my father. The future we would have had together as a family.’’