The execution sentence of Troy Davis, who was accused of killing an off duty policeman in Georgia in 1989, was delayed last night by the United States Supreme Court. The execution will be postponed for at least one week.
Davis was scheduled for execution at 7 p.m. Wednesday night, but the Supreme Court granted a temporary reprieve after considering arguments by Davis’ legal team and the state of Georgia.
Davis was indicted for the murder of Georgia policeman Mark MacPhail on November 15, 1989. In April 1990, Davis pleaded not guilty. In a hearing in November 1990, the judge excluded evidence from the case, stating that Davis’ mother did “not freely and voluntarily grant the police the right to search her home” to look for the evidence.
In August of 1991, the district attorney serving the state of Georgia sought the death penatly for Davis’ case. After ensuing arguments, a jury composed of 7 blacks and 5 whites found Davis guilty of murder in under two hours. On August 30, 1991, Davis was sentenced to death.
Because the death penalty was applied to the case, the sentence and conviction were appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court. In March of 1993, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld Davis’ conviction and sentence. In November of 1993, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of the case.
In 1994, Davis and his lawyers began the process of habeus corpus, petitioning that he had been wrongfully convicted. The petition was denied in September 1997 and November 2000.
In 2000, Davis and his lawyers attempted to challenge death by electric chair as cruel and unusual punishment, but the Georgia Supreme Court rejected the challenge by a 4-3 margin.
In 2001, Davis began the process of federal appeals, starting with a habeus corpus petition in United States District Court. Davis’ petition was denied in May 2004.
Throughout the appeals process, numerous witnesses recanted their testimonies and claimed that they were intimidated by police into testifying against Davis. Witnesses who were illiterate were found to have signed police statements that they were unable to read, and numerous witnesses stated in court that they did not know who killed MacPhail.
Another Supreme Court petition was denied in June of 2007. As Davis’ case became more and more controversial he began to gain nationwide support.
Prominent individuals who called for a new trial for Davis include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Pope Benedict XVI and Jesse Jackson, Jr.
By September 17, 2011, over 660,000 people had signed a petition for clemency for Davis.
Though the execution was postponed for a week, the Supreme Court could decide at any time in the next seven days whether to go through with the execution.