Troy Davis: Clemency denied for Georgia death row inmate

Supporters take part in a vigil for death row inmate Troy Davis outside the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles before the start of a clemency hearing for Davis in Atlanta September 19, 2011.

A parole board in Georgia has denied a last-ditch clemency appeal by Troy Davis, a Georgia man set to be executed in a high-profile case on Wednesday for the murder of a police officer.

Supporters of Davis say he may be innocent and the case has attracted international attention and become a focus for opponents of the death penalty because seven of nine trial witnesses have recanted their testimony.

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 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.

“We are determined to fight on behalf of Mr Troy Davis and on behalf of justice in Georgia,” Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta told a news conference after Tuesday’s decision.

“We should be very clear that this is a civil rights violation and a human rights violation in the worst way,” said Warnock whose church was once led by civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

He and other Davis supporters called on Savannah district attorney Larry Chisholm, 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.

“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. Emanuel, who spoke at a vigil for Davis on Monday, and 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.



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