Mike Klein Online

Georgia Appears Ready to Execute Young Police Officer’s Convicted Killer

Mike Klein

A Georgia man whose execution sentence sparked international debate is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Wednesday night, more than two decades after he allegedly gunned down a Savannah police officer, and four years after Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu and Pope Benedict XVI intervened to ask that the convicted killer’s life be spared.

The Troy Davis – Mark Allen MacPhail case began on August 19, 1989.  That is when off-duty police officer MacPhail was gunned down in the parking lot of a Savannah fast food restaurant where he was working security.  MacPhail, married and the father of two young children, was shot at point blank range and never drew his revolver.  Davis, then 20 years old, surrendered four days later.  Davis was convicted of murder in August 1991 and sentenced to death.

Two decades have passed since MacPhail was shot dead. The parking lot incident began when a homeless man cried out that he was being beaten and MacPhail responded.  Davis is now a 42-year-old man spending what might become his final hours at the state prison near Jackson in central Georgia. He is scheduled to receive a lethal injection at 7:00pm Wednesday.  Davis appears to have no further possible federal or state appeals.

Mark Allen MacPhail, Slain Savannah Police Officer (Press Release Photo)

The state parole board heard testimony all day Monday and announced its decision Tuesday morning:   “Monday September 19, 2011, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles met to consider a clemency request from attorneys representing condemned inmate Troy Anthony Davis. After considering the request, the Board has voted to deny clemency.”   In Georgia, clemency is granted by the state board and the governor does not rule on clemency.

The five-member board had three options: Uphold the execution sentence or re-sentence Davis to life in prison with or without parole.  The statement released Tuesday did not disclose how the board voted.  This was the third hearing for Davis before the state board since 2007.

The Davis – MacPhail case has evolved into a two-decade long debate over facts, the witness testimony and doubts expressed by some jurors.  Seven of nine witnesses recanted testimony.  One juror who testified at Monday’s hearing requested clemency for Davis because she now has doubts about her vote. Two other jurors signed statements also asking for clemency.

It also became an international story.  Former President Jimmy Carter, former state Supreme Court chief justice Norman Fletcher, former FBI Director William Sessions, the NAACP and Amnesty International, along with Nobel laureate Tutu and Pope Benedict XVI have all sought clemency for Davis, as did several hundred thousand people who signed petitions.

The Davis – MacPhail case has spent two decades in state and federal courts.  Davis’ death sentence was unanimously affirmed by the state Supreme Court in 1993.  Fifteen years later on a 4-3 vote the state’s highest court rejected Davis’s request for a new hearing.

Troy Davis (Georgia Department of Corrections Photo)

A federal court in Savannah denied Davis’ appeal in 2004 and two years later that ruling was upheld by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.  The U.S. Supreme Court granted an emergency stay of execution in September 2008 two hours before Davis’ scheduled death.

One month later the federal Supreme Court declined to take the case, but in 2009 it did order a new U.S. District Court hearing that would provide Davis with an opportunity to submit evidence to prove his innocence.  A federal judge who heard testimony for two days in Savannah decided there was not credible new evidence to overturn the execution sentence.

Savannah police officer Mark Allen MacPhail’s mother, his widow, son and daughter attended the Monday parole board hearing in Atlanta, as did the sister and other relatives of Troy Davis.

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

September 20, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , ,

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