Troy Davis Gets Third Stay of Execution

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(APN) ATLANTA — A federal appeals court in Atlanta stayed the execution of Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis just days before his latest scheduled execution.

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals granted Troy Anthony Davis a stay Friday afternoon, October 24, 2008, after his attorneys asked the court to do so on Wednesday, October 22.

davis9He had been scheduled for execution for Monday, October 27, 2008 and local organizations have been holding rallies and other events in recent days.

This is the second time in one month and the third time in 16 months that Davis has been granted a reprieve.

“Upon our thorough review of the record, we conclude that Davis has met the burden for a provisional stay of execution,” the court ruling handed down by Judges Joel Dubina, Rosemary Barket, and Stanley Marcus said.

“It’s not an appeal yet. It’s a request for more litigation. In order to file [a separate appeal], they have to ask for permission,” Sara Totonchi, Chair of Georgians For Alternatives to the Death Penalty (GFADP), told Atlanta Progressive News.

Permission for a new round of appeals is required under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper reported.

In their court filing Wednesday, attorneys argued that Davis is innocent and that his execution would violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

The last case “wasn’t based on actual innocence,” Totonchi said. “It was asking for a new trial based on the recantations. Sure, the recantations get at the innocence issue, but they are not innocence in themselves,” Totonchi said.

“There’s always another card that death penalty lawyers have to pull out. Some of his older lawyers got creative with this one,” Totonchi said.

Davis, who was set to die for the 1989 murder of Savannah police officer Mark Allen MacPhail, had appeared to exhaust all his legal avenues after the Supreme Court of the US announced October 14, 2008, that it would not take up his appeal.

That court issued a stay of execution September 23, 2008, just two hours before his last scheduled execution.

Since Davis’s 1991 conviction, seven of nine eyewitnesses used by the prosecution have changed or recanted their testimony in sworn affidavits.

Attorneys for Davis argue that these recantations, coupled with the fact the prosecution never produced a murder weapon or physical evidence linking Davis to the crime, show there is too much doubt to carry out an execution.

Davis has gone through a grueling series of appeals, trying desperately to get any court to hear new evidence and possibly grant a new hearing or trial. Friday’s decision provides a glimmer of hope.

“It’s a first step toward what we’ve been asking for for a decade, which is getting our evidence heard before a judge,” Jason Ewart, lead attorney for Davis, told Atlanta Progressive News.

The court said Friday the stay is conditional and Davis’s attorneys must now present facts that show he can meet the “stringent requirements” necessary to move forward with another round of appeals, according to the decision.

Attorneys have 15 days to file a brief on their arguments with the Eleventh Circuit. After the court receives that brief, the Georgia attorney general’s office will have 10 days to file their response.

Martina Correia, Davis’s sister, said she was doing an interview when she received the news.

“It’s like beyond words,” Correia told APN. “It was just amazing because all I could do was think of my brother who has faced death three times. It has to be a traumatic experience. I’m ecstatic and I’m praying that this gives us time.”

Activists supporting Davis reacted with joy over Friday’s decision.

“Amnesty International is heartened to learn of today’s stay of execution from the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals,” Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), said in a statement.

“Until this point, the compelling issues in this case have been virtually ignored, leaving Georgia vulnerable to the possibility of killing an innocent man. The Court must be commended for serving as the fail safe for justice.”

Supporters turned out Friday morning in driving rain to participate in a mock funeral procession, marching to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles office with a casket filled with 140,000 petitions asking for clemency for Davis.

The parole board granted Davis a stay in July 2007 just 24 hours before his first scheduled execution. After hearing arguments from both sides on September 12, 2008, the Board denied clemency for Davis. By that time, Davis’s first round of appeals had been exhausted except for the Supreme Court of the US.

The crowd then delivered two letters signed by clergy from across Georgia and around the world to Gov. Sonny Perdue’s office. Totonchi said it was there activists heard the news.

“We are elated to hear that Troy Davis has yet another stay,” she told Atlanta Progressive News. “We’re grateful the court stepped in and stopped what would have been a travesty of justice.”

Groups like AIUSA and GFADP have helped bring international attention to the case. Noted figures such as Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rev. Al Sharpton, and former President Jimmy Carter have all asked for clemency for Davis.

The European Union issued a statement October 22, 2008, denouncing Davis’s scheduled execution. Correia told APN she received a phone call Friday from the French ambassador from the European Union expressing support for her brother.

Thousands gathered across the United States and around the world Thursday, October 23, 2008, for an international day of solidarity. Hundreds gathered at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta Thursday night.

“We won’t allow you to take Troy Davis without a fight,” Ed DuBose, Chair of the Georgia conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said at the rally.

“How in God’s name, when there is so much doubt, can you put a man to death?” Cox asked Thursday. “What happened to Officer MacPhail was terribly wrong – we hate it. We do not honor Officer MacPhail by executing a man who is possibly innocent.”

About the author:

Jonathan Springston, Senior Staff Writer, is reachable is jonathan@atlantaprogressivenews.com

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