Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Request for Lie Detector Test for Davis Is Denied

PHOTO from Savannah Morning News,
via Associated Press Troy Anthony Davis entering Chatham County Superior Court in Georgia on Aug. 22, 1991, during his trial in the shooting death of an off-duty police officer, Mark MacPhail.


From The New York Times

September 21, 2011

ATLANTA — An official of the N.A.A.C.P. said on Wednesday that the vote by the Georgia parole board to deny clemency to Troy Davis was so close that he hoped there might still be a chance to save him from execution at 7 p.m.

Edward O. DuBose, president of the Georgia chapter, said the organization had “very reliable information from the board members directly that the board was split 3 to 2 on whether to grant clemency.”

“The fact that that kind of division was in the room is even more of a sign that there is a strong possibility to save Troy’s life,” he said.

The N.A.A.C.P said it had been in contact with the Department of Justice on Wednesday, in the hope that the federal government would intervene on the basis of civil rights violations, meaning irregularities in the original investigation and at the trial.

At the same time, hundreds of people were starting to gather at the prison in Jackson, about an hour’s drive south of Atlanta, where Mr. Davis is scheduled to die by lethal injection.

Earlier in the day, his lawyers asked the state for one more chance to spare him: a lie detector test.

But the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Parole, which on Tuesday denied Mr. Davis’s clemency after a daylong hearing Monday, quickly responded that there would be no reconsideration of the case, and the polygraph test was abandoned.

Mr. Davis’s supporters were also reaching out to the prosecutor in the original case, asking that he persuade the original judge to rescind the death order. Benjamin T. Jealous, head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who planned to visit Mr. Davis on Wednesday, was trying to ask President Obama for a reprieve.

The Innocence Project, which has had a hand in the exoneration of 17 death-row inmates through the use of DNA testing, sent a letter to the Chatham County district attorney, Larry Chisolm, urging him to withdraw the execution warrant against Mr. Davis, although there is no DNA evidence at issue in the case.

Mr. Davis was convicted of the 1989 shooting of Mark MacPhail, a Savannah police officer who was working a second job as a security guard. A homeless man called for help after a group that included Mr. Davis began to assault him, according to court testimony. When Mr. MacPhail went to assist him, he was shot in the face and the heart.

Since then, Mr. Davis has walked to the brink of execution three other times.

With this most recent execution date, he became an international symbol of the battle over the death penalty and racial imbalance in the justice system.

“It harkens back to some ugly days in the history of this state,” said the Rev. Raphael Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church, who visited Mr. Davis on Monday.

But for the family of the slain officer, and countless others who believe that two decades’ worth of legal appeals and Supreme Court intervention is more than enough to ensure justice, it is not an issue of race but of law.

Calling Mr. Davis a victim is ludicrous, said Mr. MacPhail’s widow, Joan MacPhail-Harris.

“We have lived this for 22 years,” she said Monday. “We are victims.”

She added: “We have laws in this land so that there is not chaos. We are not killing Troy because we want to.”

Her daughter, Madison, 24, along with her brother, Mark, 22, will be at the execution Wednesday. The officer’s mother, Anneliese MacPhail, will not. But she welcomes it, saying: “I’m not for blood — I’m for justice. We have been through hell, my family.”

Mr. Davis’s family, who had gathered in an Atlanta hotel to await the decision, learned that he would be put to death from members of his legal team and Amnesty International. They immediately went to the prison to be with him.

Mr. Davis, who has refused a last meal, was in good spirits and prayerful, said Wende Gozan Brown, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International, who visited Mr. Davis on Tuesday.

He told her that his death was for all the Troy Davises who came before and after him.

“I will not stop fighting until I’ve taken my last breath,” he said in a conversation relayed by Ms. Brown. “Georgia is prepared to snuff out the life of an innocent man.”

The case has been a slow and convoluted exercise in legal maneuvering and death penalty politics.

This is the fourth time Mr. Davis has faced the death penalty. The state parole board granted him a stay in 2007 as he was preparing for his final hours, saying the execution should not proceed unless its members “are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused.” The board has since added three new members.

In 2008, his execution was about 90 minutes away when the Supreme Court stepped in. Although the court kept Mr. Davis from execution, it later declined to hear the case.

In the week before his third execution date, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit issued a stay to consider his lawyer’s arguments that new testimony that could prove his innocence had not been considered.

The appeals court denied the claim but allowed time for Mr. Davis to take his argument directly to the Supreme Court, which ordered a federal court to once again examine new testimony.

But in June, a federal district court judge in Savannah said Mr. Davis’s legal team had failed to demonstrate his innocence, setting the stage for the new date.

This time around, the case catapulted into the national consciousness with record numbers of petitions — more than 630,000 — delivered to the board to stay the execution, and a list of people asking for clemency included former President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 51 members of Congress, entertainment figures like Cee Lo Green and even some death penalty supporters, including William S. Sessions, a former F.B.I. director.

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