Davis, who spent two decades on death row, mounted numerous appeals to protest his innocence and garnered global support for his case, but received a lethal injection shortly before 11pm last night.
The family of Mr MacPhail, who was killed in 1989 after running to the aid of a man being attacked by a gang which included Davis, was present to see the capital punishment administered.
‘He had all the chances in the world. It has got to come to an end,’ his mother Anneliese MacPhail said.
What is the Troy Anthony Davis Case?
Troy Anthony Davis (October 9, 1968 – September 21, 2011)was an American citizen convicted of the August 19, 1989, murder of Savannah, Georgia, police officer Mark MacPhail. MacPhail was working as a security guard at a Burger King when he intervened to defend a man being assaulted in a nearby parking lot. During Davis’ 1991 trial, witnesses testified they had seen Davis shoot MacPhail, and two others testified that Davis confessed to them.
Although the murder weapon was not recovered, ballistic evidence presented at trial tied bullets recovered at or near the scene to those at another shooting in which Davis was also charged. Davis was convicted of murder and various lesser charges, including the earlier shooting, and was sentenced to death in August 1991.
Seven of nine eyewitnesses signed affidavits changing or recanting all or part of their testimony. The limited ability to appeal his conviction, due in part to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, brought his plight to international attention. Prosecutors argued that it was too late to present the recantations as evidence.
Davis maintained his innocence. Various appeals in state and federal courts followed his conviction. Davis and his lawyers argued that the racial composition of the jury (seven of the twelve were black, as is Davis) and poor advocacy from his lawyers had affected his right to a fair trial. Witnesses stated they had felt pressure by police to implicate Davis.
Witnesses also implicated another witness, Sylvester “Redd” Coles, in the crime. The appeals were denied with state and federal courts declaring that Davis had not provided a “substantive claim” of innocence and that the recantations were unpersuasive. In July 2007, September 2008, and October 2008, execution dates were scheduled, but each execution was stayed shortly before it was to take place.
Amnesty International and other groups such as National Association for the Advancement of Colored People took up Davis’ cause. Prominent politicians and leaders, including former President Jimmy Carter, Al Sharpton, Pope Benedict XVI, Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, presidential candidate Bob Barr and former FBI Director and judge William S. Sessions called upon the courts to grant Davis a new trial or evidentiary hearing.
In August 17, 2009, the Supreme Court of the United States, over the dissenting votes of two justices, ordered a federal district court in Georgia to consider whether new evidence “that could not have been obtained at the time of trial clearly establishes [Davis’] innocence“.
The evidentiary hearing was held in June 2010, during which affidavits from several prosecution witnesses from the trial changing or recanting their previous testimony were presented; some affiants asserted they had been coerced by police. The State presented witnesses, including the police investigators and original prosecutors, denying any coercion.
Other witnesses who had not testified at trial asserted that Coles had confessed to the killing, but this evidence was excluded as hearsay as Coles was not subpoenaed by the defense to rebut it. In an August 2010 decision, the conviction was upheld by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, which described defense efforts to upset the conviction as “largely smoke and mirrors”.
Subsequent appeals, including to the Supreme Court, were rejected, and a fourth execution date was set for September 21, 2011. Nearly one million people signed petitions urging the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant clemency. Following a hearing, the Board denied him clemency. On September 21, 2011, the Board refused to reconsider its decision, and Davis was executed.