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Last hours for Georgia's Troy Davis

Latest update : 2008-09-24

Lawyers and human rights campaigners were scrambling to halt the execution of Troy Davis, in the US state of Georgia, on Tuesday. The 39-year-old African-American was condemned in 1991 on what lawyers claim were false testimonies.

Lawyers and activists scrambled to get an 11th-hour stay of execution for a Georgia man due to be put to death Tuesday, despite strong doubts over his conviction for the murder of a policeman.
  
"The execution of Troy Davis, a possibly innocent man on Georgia's death row, is set to go forward despite the fact that seven out of nine eye witnesses have recanted or changed their testimony," Sarah Totonchi, chairwoman of Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, told AFP by phone.
  
The original witness testimonies were the backbone of the prosecution's case against Davis because of the absence of a murder weapon, fingerprints and DNA.
  
"No court has ever heard the new evidence. To be this late in the game and still be looking at issues of whether or not the person did it is truly outrageous," said Totonchi.
  
Davis' execution by lethal injection was scheduled to go ahead at 7:00 pm (2300 GMT) in Georgia on Tuesday.
  
Lawyers for the 39-year-old African-American, who has been on death row since 1991 for the murder of white policeman Mark MacPhail, pressed the US Supreme Court in Washington to take a motion for a new trial to hear the changed testimonies.
  
The US high court was not in session this week and the request was to be heard by just one member of the court, conservative justice Clarence Thomas.
  
"Lawyers are focusing on getting the attention of the sitting judge, Clarence Thomas, who could act on behalf of the court and issue a stay of execution for a week until the Supreme Court reconvenes," Totonchi said.
  
"But Thomas doesn't have to respond. So we may not even hear from the US Supreme Court," she said.
  
"We've also been urging the doctors and nurses and prison guards involved to refuse to participate in the execution of an innocent man," Totonchi added.
  
The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles granted Davis a last minute stay of execution in July last year, when he was originally scheduled to have been put to death. Earlier this month however, the board issued a decision denying Davis clemency.
  
On Monday board affirmed its decision, while the Georgia Supreme Court on the same day voted six to one to deny a stay of execution for Davis, deferring to the US high court.
  
"They have jurisdiction," a spokeswoman for the state court told AFP.
  
In a letter to Georgia's Board of Pardons and Parole, actress Susan Sarandon said she was deeply troubled that the southern state might "proceed with this execution given the strong claims of innocence in this case."
  
Former US president Jimmy Carter issued a statement last week, saying: "Executing Troy Davis without a real examination of potentially exonerating evidence risks taking the life of an innocent man and would be a grave miscarriage of justice."
  
Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu of South Africa and Pope Benedict XVI are among international figures who have also spoken out to try to halt Davis' execution.
  
But the mother of the policeman slain in a car park in Savannah, Georgia in 1989 said in Saturday's Atlanta Constitution-Journal that she was "disgusted" by the outpouring of support for Davis.
  
"I hope this is over Tuesday and I can have some peace," 74-year-old Anneliese MacPhail told the paper, adding that she had no doubt Davis was guilty.

Date created : 2008-09-23

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