With A Few Hours Left Before Troy Davis Execution, Protests Mount

Sep 21, 2011

At 7 p.m. ET today, Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed in the state of Georgia. Davis' case has garnered international attention and he's been at this point three times before. As The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports, on one occasion, the state stayed his execution two-hours before it was set to take place.

If you're not familiar, Davis was convicted of the 1989 murder of an off-duty police officer. But his conviction was based on eye witness accounts and no DNA evidence. Through the years, some of the witnesses have walked back their testimony and doubts have emerged about the case.

So much so that the Supreme Court gave Davis a chance to prove his innocence. The AP reports that was the "first time it had done so for a death row inmate in at least 50 years, but he couldn't convince a judge to grant him a new trial."

High profile Americans have also taken up Davis' cause. Former President Jimmy Carter wrote a letter on Davis' behalf. And former Rep. Bob Barr, a pro-death-penalty Republican, has called for a stay. "Even for death penalty supporters such as myself, the level of doubt inherent in this case is troubling," he told the AP.

The family of the victim, Mark MacPhail, is convinced Davis is the killer.

Legal experts believe the case has reached the end of the road. Today, reports USA Today, the Georgia pardons board rejected an appeal and a Georgia judge refused to halt the execution. Here is how a University of Georgia law professor Donald E. Wilkes Jr. laid it out to the Wall Street Journal:

"In my judgment, there are no judicial options left to Davis and there are no executive options," he said. " At 7 p.m., you can be sure he'll be strapped to the gurney, and I'd expect that by 7:15 pm, Troy Davis will be dead."

That said, Wilkes believes the state should commute Davis's sentence to life without parole. "I think this is a clear case where Troy Davis's guilt is not certain," he said. "It may be probable or even very probable, but it's not certain and I believe no one should be put to death unless evidence of their guilt is certain."

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that with satellite trucks and a mass of protesters, the scene outside the prison in Jackson, Georgia, where Davis is scheduled to be executed, is "unlike any previous executions in past years."

The paper reports on another protest in Savannah:

In Savannah this morning, about 18 supporters gathered outside Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisolm's office to present 240,000 signatures of people asking for clemency. Organizer Sister Jackie Griffith said the group hopes Chisolm can use any influence he may have to urge Chatham Superior Court Judge Penny Freesemann to halt the execution.

"We believe anyone who has power should use it for justice," said Griffith, a Catholic nun who has worked to stop Davis' execution since 1998. She said she was drawn to the case because she believes all life is sacred, "whether it's a guilty life or an innocent life."

"We're very prayerful and dogged in our efforts...we're always hopeful, but hope comes with reality," she added.

Holding a sign that read "Justice for Troy Davis, Too Much Doubt," supporters Denise Chaney and Valdara Wall chatted about the case, referencing the man who was with Davis around the time of the shooting, Sylvester "Redd" Coles, who is rumored to have admitted in recent years to have murdered Officer Mark Allen MacPhail.

"When Redd finally comes forth and admits it, how are they going to bring Troy back?" Wall asked.

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