The state Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday has denied clemency for Troy Anthony Davis after hearing pleas for mercy from Davis' family and calls for his execution by surviving relatives of a murdered Savannah police officer.
Davis' case has already taken more unexpected turns than just about any death-penalty case in Georgia history and his innocence claims have attracted international attention. Its resolution was postponed once again when the parole board late Monday announced it would not be making an immediate decision as to whether Davis should live or die.
Davis, 42, is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the state prison in Jackson. He was sentenced to death for the 1989 murder of off-duty Savannah Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail.
On Monday, Davis' lawyers said they believed they'd made their case that there is too much doubt in the case. But members of MacPhail's family expressed confidence the board would deny clemency.
After Davis' lawyers made their three-hour presentation, attorney Stephen Marsh emerged from the hearing and said, "We believe we have established substantial doubt in this case."
Davis' nephew, DeJaun Davis-Correia, pleaded for mercy from the board, Davis' lawyers said.
Late Monday, Davis’ sister, Martina Correia, said her family is glad the parole board is taking its time.
“I know they have a lot to consider,” she said. “We’re just praying for a good outcome.”
As for her brother’s execution date being set on repeated occasions, “It’s been like reliving a nightmare over and over. ... But we believe in our brother’s innocence.”
The surviving relatives of the slain officer presented a decidedly different front. They resolutely told the news media they believe Davis is a cop killer who deserves to die for what he did.
“He’s guilty,” MacPhail’s widow, Joan MacPhail-Harris, said. “We need to go ahead and execute him.”
MacPhail-Harris expressed confidence the board would deny clemency. "What a travesty it would be if they don't uphold the death sentence. ... It's time for justice today. My family needs justice. He was taken from us too soon, too early.”
As for the case presented by Davis' legal team that Davis was wrongly convicted, she said, "It's been a lie."
MacPhail-Harris was flanked by her 23-year-old daughter, Madison MacPhail, and 22-year-old son, Mark MacPhail Jr., who were a toddler and an infant when their father was killed.
“A future was taken from me,” said Madison MacPhail, unable to hold back tears. “The death penalty is the correct form of justice. … Troy Davis murdered my father, no questions asked."
The officer's mother, Anneliese MacPhail, said the family "has been through hell without Mark. He did his duty. He loved his country."
When asked about the possibility of Davis being granted clemency, she said, “I don’t even want to think about it. Please.”
Officer MacPhail, a 27-year-old former Army Ranger, was moonlighting on a security detail when he ran to help a homeless man, who had cried out because he was being pistol whipped. MacPhail was shot three times before he could draw his handgun.
The parole board has the sole authority in Georgia to grant or deny clemency. Three years ago, the board denied clemency to Davis but it has three new members since that decision. Davis' lawyers say there is also new evidence that indicates another man at the scene was the actual trigger man.
Over the past decade, the board has commuted three death sentences -- Alexander Williams in 2002, James Willie Hall in 2004 and Samuel Crowe in 2008. If the five-member board grants Davis clemency, it would commute his death sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole or life without parole.
As the board considered the case Monday, dozens of protesters, many carrying “I Am Troy Davis” and “Justice For Troy Davis” placards, held vigil outside the Sloppy Floyd Building across the street from the Capitol. State troopers and guards provided a robust security presence throughout the state office building.
Among witnesses to testify on Davis' behalf was Brenda Forrest, a juror who voted to sentence Davis to death at the 1991 trial. She now says she has too much doubt about her verdict and is asking the board to grant clemency. Two other jurors who voted to sentence Davis to death have signed affidavits asking the board to spare Davis from execution.
Also testifying before the board was Quiana Glover, a Savannah woman who says that she heard Sylvester "Redd" Coles, who was with Davis shortly before MacPhail was killed, say he was the actual killer. Coles made the statement during a party in June 2009 when he had been drinking heavily, Glover said in a sworn affidavit.
Coles, the first to implicate Davis to the police, testified at trial that he left the scene before shots were fired.
Calls for Davis to be spared execution have been made by numerous dignitaries, including former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, former FBI Director William Sessions, former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher and Larry Thompson, the former deputy U.S. attorney general. Davis' advocates, including Amnesty International and the NAACP, have used social media to rally worldwide support. Last week, Davis' supporters presented the parole board with the names of more than 663,000 people asking that Davis be granted clemency.
This is the fourth time the state of Georgia has set an execution date for Davis. On three prior occasions, he was granted stays -- twice just hours before his execution was to be carried out.
On one occasion, the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in and ordered an extraordinary hearing, giving Davis the chance to clearly establish he was an innocent man. But a Savannah judge, after hearing two days of testimony, ultimately ruled that while Davis’ new evidence “cast some additional, minimal doubt on his conviction, it is largely smoke and mirrors.”
His legal appeals are exhausted, so his latest last-ditch effort before the parole board appears to be his last chance to be spared execution.
Staff writer Rhonda Cook contributed to this article.