Hundreds march in Georgia to oppose Troy Davis execution

ATLANTA Fri Sep 16, 2011 10:59pm EDT

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ATLANTA (Reuters) - More than 2,000 activists chanting and toting banners joined a march and rally on Friday to oppose the execution of Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis, convicted of the 1989 murder of a Savannah police officer.

Georgia's Board of Pardons and Paroles is slated to meet Monday to consider whether to stop Davis' execution by lethal injection, which is scheduled for next Wednesday.

"I pray that this rally will have an impact on Pardons and Paroles," said marcher Solana Plaines, from Savannah. "I hope they will do the right thing."

Davis' supporters say there is no physical evidence linking him to the crime and that key witnesses in his trial have since recanted their testimony.

"You just can't give up hope," said Ellen Kubica, who traveled from her home in Germany to attend Friday's event, which featured banners reading: "Too much doubt to execute.

Davis' supporters marched from downtown Atlanta to Ebenezer Baptist Church on Auburn Avenue for a rally.

Martin Luther King III, son of the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., joined the march. His father and grandfather were pastors at Ebenezer.

Ben Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist and television show host, also attended.

"The only thing left to decide is whether you have the courage to do the right thing," Sharpton said, referring to the Georgia parole board.

"It is blatantly clear that there is no reason for this man to be sitting on death row," he added.

In a rare move, the U.S. Supreme Court in August 2009 ordered a new hearing for Davis to assess what he said was new evidence showing his innocence.

The justices transferred the case to a U.S. District Court in Georgia for a hearing and determination of his claims that new witnesses will clearly establish his innocence. A year later, the judge, William T. Moore Jr., rejected Davis' claims of innocence.

On Thursday, supporters of the condemned man delivered petitions bearing more than 600,000 names to the parole board.

In an opinion column published on Thursday in the Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper, former FBI Director William Sessions called for Davis' sentence to be commuted to life in prison, saying the case was "permeated in doubt."

In an opposing column written in late 2008 and republished on Thursday, Spencer Lawton, the district attorney who prosecuted Davis, said the condemned man had a fair trial.

The claim that seven witnesses at the trial had subsequently recanted their testimony was "not believable," Lawton wrote.

Lawton said the witnesses were all cross-examined by defense attorneys during Davis' trial and denied that they had been coerced by police.

(Editing by Tim Gaynor and Peter Bohan)

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