Troy Davis to die by lethal injection in Georgia on Wednesday as protesters appeal to stop execution going ahead
Death row inmate Troy Davis faces execution on Wednesday evening, despite a furious campaign in the US and Europe to win clemency for Davis over his conviction for a murder he says he did not commit.
Vigils outside Georgia’s death chamber were set up, and protests were planned across the US. Davis’s attorneys said he was willing to take a polygraph test if the pardons board would consider its results.
Davis’s lawyers also drew up a late appeal asking a local judge to block the execution over evidence Davis’s legal team object to. Defense attorney Brian Kammer told the Associated Press he would file the appeal in superior court in Butts County, home of the state’s death row, when it opens on Wednesday. The motion argues that ballistic testing that linked Davis to the shooting was flawed.
In Europe, where the planned execution has drawn widespread criticism, politicians and activists were making a last-minute appeal to the state of Georgia to stop the execution.
Amnesty International and other groups planned a protest outside the US embassy in Paris, and Amnesty also called for a vigil outside the embassy in London.
Parliamentarians and government ministers from the Council of Europe, the EU’s human rights watchdog, called for Davis’s sentence to be commuted.
Renate Wohlwend of the council’s parliamentary assembly noted doubts raised about Davis’s conviction by his supporters and said: “To carry out this irrevocable act now would be a terrible mistake which could lead to a tragic injustice.”
After winning three reprieves since 2007, Davis lost his most realistic chance at last-minute clemency this week when the state pardons board denied his request. He is set to be executed by injection at 7pm ET for the 1989 killing of Mark MacPhail, an off-duty police officer who was working as a security guard in Savannah when he was shot dead rushing to help a homeless man who had been attacked.
Davis refused a last meal. He planned to spend his final hours meeting with friends, family and supporters. According to an advocate who saw him late on Tuesday, he was upbeat, prayerful and expected last-minute wrangling by attorneys.
Attorney Stephen Marsh said he had asked state prisons officials and the pardons board if they would allow a polygraph test. A prisons spokeswoman said she was unaware of the request, and the pardons board did not immediately respond for comment.
“He doesn’t want to spend three hours away from his family on what could be the last day of his life if it won’t make any difference,” Marsh said.
Davis has received support from hundreds of thousands of people, including a former FBI director, former president Jimmy Carter and Pope Benedict XVI.
The US supreme court gave him an unusual opportunity to prove his innocence last year, but his attorneys failed to convince a judge he did not kill MacPhail.
State and federal courts have repeatedly upheld his conviction.
Prosecutors have no doubt they charged the right person, and MacPhail’s family lobbied the pardons board Monday to reject Davis’s clemency appeal.
The board refused to stop the execution a day later.
“He has had ample time to prove his innocence,” said MacPhail’s widow, Joan MacPhail-Harris. “And he is not innocent.”
Spencer Lawton, the district attorney who secured Davis’s conviction in 1991, said he was embarrassed for the judicial system that the execution has taken so long.
“What we have had is a manufactured appearance of doubt which has taken on the quality of legitimate doubt itself. And all of it is exquisitely unfair,” said Lawton, who retired as Chatham County’s head prosecutor in 2008.
“The good news is we live in a civilized society where questions like this are decided based on fact in open and transparent courts of law, and not on street corners.”
Davis supporters said they will push the pardons board to reconsider his case.
They also asked Savannah prosecutors to block the execution, although Chatham County district attorney Larry Chisolm said in a statement he was powerless to withdraw an execution order for Davis issued by a state superior court judge.
“We appreciate the outpouring of interest in this case; however, this matter is beyond our control,” Chisolm said.
MacPhail was shot dead on 19 August 1989, after coming to the aid of Larry Young in a Burger King parking lot.
Prosecutors say Davis was with another man who was demanding that Young give him a beer when Davis pulled out a handgun and hit Young with it.
When MacPhail arrived to help, they say Davis had a smirk on his face as he shot the officer to death. Witnesses placed Davis at the crime scene and identified him as the shooter. Shell casings were linked to an earlier shooting that Davis was convicted of.
There was no other physical evidence. No blood or DNA tied Davis to the crime and the weapon was never found.
Davis’s attorneys say seven of nine key witnesses who testified at his trial have disputed all or parts of their testimony.
The state initially planned to execute him in July 2007, but the pardons board granted him a stay less than 24 hours before he was to die. The US supreme court stepped in a year later and halted the lethal injection two hours before he was to be executed. And a federal appeals court halted another planned execution a few months later.
The supreme court granted Davis a hearing to prove his innocence, the first time it had done so for a death row inmate in at least 50 years. At that June 2010 hearing, two witnesses testified that they falsely incriminated Davis at his trial when they said Davis confessed to the killing. Two others told the judge the man with Davis that night later said he shot MacPhail.
Prosecutors, though, argued that Davis’s lawyers were simply rehashing old testimony that had already been rejected by a jury. And they said no trial court could ever consider the hearsay from the other witnesses who blamed the other man for the crime.