Despite Troy Davis claimed he was innocent and a victim of mistaken identity and coercive investigative tactics that got him convicted of killing a Savannah police officer nearly 18 years ago, the state answers he has had plenty of appeals and all of them have failed.
On Monday, in what could be Davis' last, best hope at avoiding execution, his attorneys will urge the state Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute his sentence to life in prison. Prosecutors will tell the board Davis should be given a lethal injection Tuesday as scheduled.
Davis' hearing promises to be anything but typical because witnesses who once testified he was guilty have recanted.
The board has vowed to listen carefully to both sides and base its decision on the facts. It says it will not be swayed by public pressure.
A jury convicted Davis, 38, for the Aug. 19, 1989, murder of Officer Mark MacPhail, who was shot twice after he rushed to help a homeless man who had been assaulted.
The shooting took place in a Burger King parking lot next to the bus station where MacPhail worked off-duty as a security guard.
Davis' lawyers say seven of nine witnesses who testified at his trial that they either saw Davis shoot the officer, saw him assault the homeless man before the shooting or heard Davis later confess to the slaying have since recanted or contradicted their testimony.
Other affidavits from three people who did not testify at Davis' trial say another man, Sylvester Coles, confessed to killing the officer after Davis was convicted. After the shooting, Coles identified Davis as the killer.
Prosecutors argue that most of the witness affidavits, signed between 1996 and 2003, were included in Davis' previous appeals and should not be considered new evidence.
Davis' lawyers say they have been hindered over the years at getting courts to consider their new evidence because of restraints in the law.
In Davis' case, his appeals have failed largely on procedural grounds.
However, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did review affidavits from witnesses who said they were coerced into making statements against Davis. The court still denied Davis relief, saying in part in its 2006 decision that the claims in the affidavits were insufficient "either because the assertions contained therein do not rise to the level of coercive police conduct, or because there is no reasonable likelihood that the false testimony could have affected the jury's judgment."
On Friday, a county judge denied a bid to halt Davis' scheduled execution, saying that having witnesses who claim to have given false testimony "fails to meet the newly discovered evidence standard under well-settled Georgia law."
While his attorneys planned to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court, Davis' best chance at saving his life appears to be the parole board, which, besides commuting the death sentence, could grant a stay.
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