Mike Klein Online

Georgia Executes Troy Davis … as Slain Police Officer’s Son Watches

Mike Klein

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.

Troy Anthony Davis

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.

Mark Allen MacPhail

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.

September 21, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment