Supreme Court Postpones Execution
By: Gerri L. Elder
The execution of a Georgia inmate was recently stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court during a special hearing held just hours before the man was scheduled to be put to death.
On September 23, the execution of Troy Anthony Davis, 39, was postponed for a second time. Davis was convicted of murdering a police officer in Georgia.
Davis and his family insist that he is innocent and hope that they will now have time to press forward with requests for a new criminal trial.
The court postponed the execution until after they were scheduled to meet on September 29 to consider an appeal in the case. A decision is expected by October 6. The court had already agreed to consider the appeal prior to the execution date being set, but Georgia decided to set Davis’ execution date for six days before they were to meet.
Police officer Mark MacPhail was shot and killed in 1989 while working a second job as a security guard at a bus station in Savannah, Georgia. He rushed to help a homeless man who had been pistol-whipped and was fatally shot when he approached three men. Davis was accused of being one of those men. He was convicted of MacPhail’s murder in 1991 and sentenced to die.
At Davis’ criminal trial, prosecutors claimed that he approached MacPhail with a smirk on his face as he fired the fatal shots. However, now seven of the nine key witnesses who testified against Davis have recanted their statements. Additionally, three other people have said that one of the witnesses who testified against Davis at the trial later confessed to killing MacPhail himself.
Davis and his criminal defense attorneys say that he is a victim of mistaken identity. The recanted witness testimony and Davis’ claims of innocence have drawn high-profile supporters such as President Jimmy Carter and South Africa Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Amnesty International has organized protests as far away as Paris, France and Rev. Al Sharpton has led rallies calling for a new trial in the case.
In July 2007, the state pardons board in Georgia recognized the concerns in the case and postponed Davis’ execution less than 24 hours before he was scheduled to die.
Since that time, the courts have thoroughly vetted the case, according to CNN.com. A divided state Supreme Court has rejected Davis’ request for a new trial twice and the pardons board rejected his bid for clemency after considering the case again in September 2008.
MacPhail’s family is livid at the delays and say that they have no doubt that it was Davis who murdered him. They feel that justice will be done for MacPhail if and when Davis is executed.
The last-minute stay of execution for Davis was issued by the Supreme Court on the night of September 23 after he had already turned down a last meal and prepared his final statement. He now waits on death row in Georgia for the next life-or-death decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.