Troy Davis was executed Wednesday in Georgia. His death is certain to fuel more extreme outrage from those who believe Davis was wrongly executed, even as the lethal injection brought some relief to the family of a police officer whom Davis was convicted of killing.
Savannah, Georgia police officer Mark Allen MacPhail was shot three times on August 19, 1989 when he responded to a man’s call for help. The police officer was moonlighting as a security guard at a fast food restaurant. MacPhail was shot twice. He fell. He never pulled his gun. After falling, he was shot once more, point blank in the face as he lay helpless on the ground.
Davis, who was just 20 years old, surrendered four days later. He was convicted of murder in August, 1991 and the Georgia Supreme Court upheld his conviction and death sentence in February, 1993. Over nearly two decades the Davis case became a rallying point for anti-death penalty advocates and for people who genuinely believe the verdict was wrong.
His case was appealed to every level of federal court including the U.S. Supreme Court. It went back before the state Supreme Court 15 years after the Court first affirmed the death sentence. In the end, the best chance that Davis had was on Monday when his attorneys went to the state Board of Pardons and Paroles to ask for clemency, meaning life in prison with or without parole.
Tuesday morning the board denied that petition. MacPhail’s family expressed satisfaction with the decision. But that did not stop Davis supporters. Hundreds rallied Tuesday evening at the State Capitol in Atlanta. One state senator even boldly suggested Department of Corrections employees should refuse to work on Wednesday to protest the possible Davis execution.
On Wednesday morning, the final morning of Troy Davis’ life, his attorneys arrived at the state prison in Jackson prepared to administer a polygraph test to Davis who repeatedly denied he was the shooter who killed police officer MacPhail. The attorneys were turned away.
Celebrities used Twitter to campaign for clemency. Protestors marched outside the White House, even though President Barack Obama was in New York for meetings at the United Nations. A media circus took up death watch positions outside the Jackson state prison in central Georgia. Rev. Al Sharpton showed up to hold a prayer service and lead protestors.
Davis’ attorneys filed a petition in Butts County Superior Court that said ballistics evidence cited in the 1991 trial had been discredited. Using that argument, attorneys asked that the execution be stayed. That request was denied so his attorneys appealed to the state Supreme Court. That request was denied. The justices also denied Davis’ request for a new hearing.
Unable to find relief, and with less than an hour remaining until the execution, Davis’s attorneys appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. President Obama declined to get involved during the final hour. Seven o’clock came and went. Ten minutes passed. Then twenty minutes. Half an hour. Forty-five minutes. One hour. Two hours, then three hours. Word came after 10:00pm ET that the U.S. Supreme Court denied the motion for a stay of execution. Troy Davis’ fate was sealed.
More than any other execution case in Georgia history, the Davis – MacPhail case fueled sets of competing emotions: Anger from those who believe the verdict was wrong along with anger from those who oppose the death penalty for any reason and equal determination from the MacPhail family, the original prosecutor and others who contend the 1991 jury got it right.
Doubt existed because seven trial court witnesses later recanted their testimony. Two jurors signed statements requesting clemency for Davis and a third who testified at the pardons and parole hearing this week said she no longer believed in the verdict. There has been much discussion for many years about a third person who allegedly claimed he shot MacPhail.
With so much doubt about the identity of the killer and the trial itself, internationally prominent people too numerous to mention and at least one government urged clemency for Davis.
Former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu and many others from public life appealed for his clemency. Hundreds of thousands signed clemency petitions. The French government expressed regret about the parole board decision.
The majority of Davis’ final hours were spent waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court decision on this, his fourth scheduled date to die by execution. Three times, most recently in 2008, Davis had received a late stay. Earlier during his final day Davis spent several hours with family and friends. He declined a last meal.
Media members who witnessed the execution said that given his chance to make a final statement, Davis told members of the MacPhail family that he did not have a gun and he did not kill the police officer.
Troy Anthony Davis was pronounced dead by lethal injection at 11:08 p.m.
Mark Allen MacPhail’s son and his brother watched Davis die.
What should you expect to pay for your dog’s knee replacement? Should what you pay for your dog to have his knees fixed bear any relationship to fixing your own knees? What determines the cost for knee replacements, whether the surgery is done here or overseas?
Writing this week on his national Health Care Policy blog, health care economist John Goodman asked, “Why is the price of a knee replacement for a dog — involving the same technology and the same medical skills that are needed for humans — less than 1/6th the price a typical health insurance company pays for human operations?”
Goodman also posed this question: “How is a Canadian able to come to the United States and get a knee replacement for less than half of what Americans are paying?”
And this question: “How are Canadians getting knee replacements in the U.S. able to pay only a few thousand dollars more than medical tourists pay in India, Singapore and Thailand – places where the price is supposed to be a fraction of what we typically pay in this country?”
There is very little national debate about dog health care costs but human health care is entirely another issue. It fundamentally and deeply personally scares nearly everyone who might one day be forced to assume his or her own extreme health care costs or those for others, their loved ones. And it is well documented that human health care costs are eating the economy, whether that economy be the private sector economy or the public sector economy.
Goodman – whose National Center for Policy Analysis created the health savings account idea – will participate in a medical malpractice reform panel and also deliver a keynote address at next week’s Georgia Public Policy Foundation legislative briefing. The Friday, September 30 conference is open to the public at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.
Goodman’s address, “Free Our Health Care Now,” is expected to build on ideas the NCPA founder published soon after President Barack Obama issued a challenge to U.S. House Republicans: “If you have a better idea, show it to me.” Goodman responded with a 10-point proposal in a Wall Street Journal commentary that was republished on the NCPA site.
Goodman’s response to Obama’s challenge: Make insurance affordable through tax relief, make health insurance portable, meet the needs of the chronically ill, allow doctors and patients to control costs, don’t cut Medicare, protect early retirees, inform consumers, eliminate junk lawsuits, stop health care fraud, and make medical breakthroughs accessible to patients.
Today the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — sometimes referred to as Obama Care – remains under constant scrutiny from conservatives. Twenty-eight states that consider it unconstitutional went to federal court and their case will most likely be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court sometime next year.
Incidentally, if you are still wondering about the comparative costs for dog and human knee transplant surgery, Goodman noted in this week’s blog that while humans generally spend the first couple days recovering in the hospital or in a nearby hotel, dogs usually recover in cages. We are not aware of any new proposed policy for humans to also recover in cages.
Click here for more information and to register for the Friday, September 30 conference.
Other Conference Keynote Speakers:
Bernie Marcus is co-founder of The Home Depot. Along with his wife Billi, Marcus funded development and construction of the Georgia Aquarium which is one of the world’s leading aquarium research facilities. The Marcus Institute in Atlanta provides comprehensive services to children and adolescents with developmental disabilities. The Marcus Foundation also funded a state-of-the-art bio-terrorism unit at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Marcus will discuss “How to Make Georgia a Leader in Entrepreneurship and Innovation.”
Michael Horn is co-founder and executive director of education at the Innosight Institute in Mountain View, California, south of San Francisco. Clayton M. Christensen, Horn and Curtis W. Johnson are co-authors of “Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns.” Christensen, Horn and Jason Hwang co-founded the Innosight Institute four years ago to focus on health care and education policy research and writing. Horn will discuss “The Promise of Online Learning.”
Lee Hicks is founder and chief executive officer of Atlanta-based C PORT Solutions which specializes in high end communications and video conference products for several industries including health care. Clients include the Walt Disney Company, Proctor and Gamble, Toyota, Boeing, IBM, AT&T, Medtronic and Med Assets. This year the Atlanta-based consumer giant Newell Rubbermaid and C PORT announced their partnership in a new health care division. Hicks will discuss “Keeping Innovative Startup Companies and Jobs in Georgia.”
(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)
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