Chatham Court Issues Death Warrant for Troy Davis (UPDATE 1)

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(APN) ATLANTA — The Superior Court of Chatham County issued a death warrant Wednesday, September 03, 2008, for Troy Anthony Davis, a man convicted of the 1989 murder of Savannah police officer Mark Allen MacPhail.

The warrant calls for a September 23, 2008, execution but it could occur as late as September 30.

Attorneys for Davis had hoped the Chatham court would wait to issue the warrant until they had time to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of the US, which will not reconvene until September 30.

The decision came as a surprise to groups like Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) and Georgians For Alternatives to the Death Penalty (GFADP) who have been working on the Davis case and urging for a commuted sentence.

“The… decision to issue the death warrant is an appalling display of injustice,” Larry Cox, executive director for AIUSA, said in a press release.

“Given the Georgia Supreme Court’s failure to order an evidentiary hearing for Mr. Davis, it is all the more essential that the Georgia Board [of Pardons and Paroles] step in. We are disappointed by the… decision to short-circuit justice.”

As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, seven of nine witnesses prosecutors used to obtain Davis’s conviction have recanted or changed their testimony in sworn affidavits since the conviction in 1991. One of the two remaining witnesses has been implicated by some of the others as the actual killer.

Davis has gone through a grueling appeals process asking for a new trial. In July 2007, Davis was only one day away from execution before the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles issued a 90-day stay of execution.

The Parole Board was going to conduct its own review; however, their review was placed on hold due to pending court appeals.

In August 2007, Davis’s attorneys filed an extraordinary motion for a new trial in Chatham County, which was denied.

The Georgia Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in November 2007 but they ruled 4-3 against Davis on March 17, 2008.

Attorneys appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court to reconsider their March 17 decision with no luck. Davis decided then to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Last year the [parole board] stated that they will not carry out this execution unless there is no doubt as to Mr. Davis’ guilt,” Jared Feuer, Southern regional director for AIUSA, told Atlanta Progressive News.

“Throughout his legal appeals, the courts have relied on technicalities to ignore essential evidence as to Mr. Davis’s guilt. Not only do doubts remain, but they are pervasive. Letting this execution go forward simply should not be an option.”

By issuing the death warrant, the attorney general is basically “trying to take the ball out of the U.S. Supreme Court’s hands,” Feuer said.

“There is no reason they couldn’t have waited,” Feuer said of the attorney general’s decision. “What they’re doing is cutting off legal avenues.”

Feuer said September 23 would most likely be the execution date, but that Davis will have a chance to appear before the parole board a day or two before.

He noted while there is a chance the board could issue another stay of execution, it is more likely they will either commute Davis’s sentence or give the go ahead for execution.

GFADP had planned to hold a rally for Davis on September 30 but Feuer told APN that event will happen before September 23. Further details about the event will be issued soon, he said.

CORRECTION: This report was originally entitled, “Attorney General Issues Death Warrant for Troy Davis.” A reader pointed out the Attorney General did not issue the warrant. Hearing this, APN obtained a copy of the order issued by the Superior Court of Chatham County. We have updated the title of this story and the lead paragraph to reflect the changes. We have also ommitted mention of the AG’s office from quotes from Amnesty International. Numerous news agencies including, apparently, the Associated Press, got it wrong, by relying on press releases issued by Amnesty International containing the erroneous information. APN regrets the error. Please see a separately published update to learn more about the AG’s role in the pending execution and other new information.

About the author:

Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer for The Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at jonathan@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

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