Clemency denied for Georgia death row inmate

ATLANTA Tue Sep 20, 2011 5:21pm EDT

1 of 5. Ebenezer Baptist church Pastor Raphael Warnock (L) speaks next to Amnesty International campaign director Laura Moye during a news conference after the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied clemency for convicted killer Troy Davis in Atlanta, Georgia September 20, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Tami Chappell

Related Topics

ATLANTA (Reuters) - A Georgia parole board on Tuesday denied a last-ditch clemency appeal by Troy Davis, who is set to be executed in a high-profile case on Wednesday for the murder of a police officer.

Davis' case has attracted international attention and became a focus for death penalty opponents because seven of nine trial witnesses have since recanted their testimony, prompting supporters to say he may be innocent.

But two legal experts said Tuesday's decision by Georgia's Board of Pardons and Paroles closes the most viable legal avenue for Davis in his bid to avoid execution.

"The Board has considered the totality of the information presented in this case and thoroughly deliberated on it, after which the decision was to deny clemency," the state body said in a statement.

Davis was convicted of the 1989 killing of police officer Mark MacPhail near a Burger King restaurant in Savannah, Georgia. MacPhail's family says Davis is guilty and should be executed.

He is due to die by lethal injection at 7 p.m. local time on Wednesday at Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, Georgia.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu and Helen Prejean, -- who wrote "Dead Man Walking," a book about a death row inmate -- have issued statements on Davis' behalf, and around 2,000 people including civil rights leaders rallied in his support on Friday.

A further rally was planned for Tuesday evening on the steps of the state capitol building.

In a measure of international concern about the case, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland, on Tuesday appealed in a statement to U.S. authorities to "find a way to spare the life of Troy Davis".

"The reason is not only our disagreement over capital punishment but first and foremost the serious doubts which persist about the integrity of the conviction," he said, adding that he did not want to be perceived as interfering.

'A CIVIL RIGHTS MATTER'

Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, called the impending execution a "civil rights violation and a human rights violation".

"We are determined to fight on behalf of Mr Troy Davis and on behalf of justice in Georgia," Warnock told a news conference held at his church, which was once led by civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

He and other Davis supporters called on Savannah district attorney Larry Chisolm, a key figure in the case, to appeal for the death warrant to be vacated and said they also wanted the parole board to reconsider its decision.

But Davis' legal options appear slim, not least because Georgia's constitution gives authority on pardons and paroles to the board so no appeal to the governor is possible.

"It doesn't seem like there is a strong legal option at this point. This (the parole board hearing) is most likely it," said Anne Emanuel, a law professor at Georgia State University who advises Amnesty International USA.

The case has been through a series of appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court took the rare step in August 2009 of ordering a new hearing for Davis to assess what his lawyers 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 Moore, rejected Davis' claims of innocence.

(Editing by)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (9)
toby3061 wrote:
Why would seven people who testified UNDER OATH as to the GUILT of the defendant decide to recant their testimony YEARS later? Is it remorse for lying under oath or remorse at seeing a convicted man face JUSTICE?

Sep 20, 2011 10:28am EDT  --  Report as abuse
DavidFaubion wrote:
Why do the prosecutors, Judges, and/or juries of the wrongful executions never get charged and convicted of some degree of murder? Why do these cases of judicial bungling continue to occur? Why is capital punishment not capital murder of the most premeditated cruel and unusual punishment? Why does a society choose to pay extra for capital executions that increase the rate of homicide by creating a state sponsored climate of violence? Death is a grizzly bear, Thanatos red-eyed and gruesome… why must Alcestis die, Manitu, Manitu, why must Alcestis die? Answer: pathological fear and ignorance in our culture of violence as the United States of Violence, one nation under violence …

Sep 20, 2011 12:11pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
anotherview wrote:
The news media workers seldom present an unslanted view grounded in a factual dialog when the death penalty and its use enter the news reporting cycle. The condemned one here evidently has received all legal consideration for murderers under the American justice system. Meanwhile, let us agree that a complete justice system requires the death penalty for the worst crimes. The thinker Thomas Aquinas supported the death penalty because its use protects the safety of the community. A citizen living in modern times may argue that locking up a convicted murderer for the rest of his natural life may protect the community. Yet this view fails to account for the killers who continue to kill others while incarcerated. These others include fellow inmates and prison staff. The use of the death penalty removes a threat to society while it satisfies the profound human need for punishment befitting the crime. Further, in modern times, the use and the abuse of the news media by anti-death penalty organizations distorts the public dialog, by putting the attention primarily on the condemned one. This lopsided approach typically shortchanges the victim and the concerns of his or her family and friends left behind as well as the loss to the community. The execution of the condemned one ends this continuing lopsided approach, quieting the undue attraction to his fate. The balance of daily community life returns.

Sep 20, 2011 12:33pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.