Saturday, 14 July 2007

Campaign grows to halt execution of U.S. inmate

July 13, 2007

Campaign grows to halt execution of U.S. inmate

By Matthew Bigg, Reuters

ATLANTA - U.S. authorities should halt the execution next Tuesday of a man
for killing an off-duty police officer in 1989 because of growing
indications he might not be guilty, campaigners said on Friday.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles is due to rule on Monday on whether
it should grant clemency to Troy Davis, 38, who is due to be executed by
lethal injection at a prison in Jackson, Georgia.

Davis was convicted of killing officer Mark McPhail in the parking lot of a
Burger King restaurant in Savannah, Georgia.

Pleas for a stay of execution are common, but campaigners including Amnesty
International and South African Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu
argue Davis could be innocent.

No DNA evidence linked Davis to the crime, no murder weapon was found and
seven of nine witnesses central to the prosecution case have recanted or
changed their testimony, according to activists.

Some witnesses also have said they testified under duress and two of them,
plus four new witnesses, have identified a man they said was the actual
murderer, according to evidence that Davis' lawyers intend to present to the
parole board.

"We are not saying he is innocent," said Laura Moye, deputy regional
director of Amnesty USA. "(But) if you look at the facts we don't believe he
got a fair trial or a fair appeal. The new facts should be reviewed."

"I don't think you could look at the facts of this case and feel safe going
forward with the execution," said Moye, whose organization opposes the death

Davis's case was weakened by a 1996 law that narrowed the avenues of appeal
for death row inmates, and his lawyers were hampered by a refusal of the
courts to look at evidence that emerged after the initial trial, Moye said.

In an opinion piece in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution newspaper, former
FBI director William Sessions said of Davis' case: "It would be intolerable
to execute a man without his claims of innocence ever being considered by
the courts or by the executive," referring to the state governor.

Since 1976, 124 people have been freed from death row in the United States
after their convictions were overturned and they were acquitted at retrial
or had charges against them dropped, according to the Death Penalty
Information Center.

At least 1,086 people have been executed in the United States since 1976, of
whom 34 percent were black, 57 percent were white and 7 percent Hispanic. In
at least eight executions there was "strong evidence of innocence," the
center said.

Davis' sister said race played a part in the conviction of her brother, who
is black.

"They (the police) really dishonored the memory of their comrade by trying
to get any black man for the crime. Troy was convicted on rage and outrage,"
Martina Correra said in an interview.


Source : Reuters

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