Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Parole board bows out of Davis clemency bid

Parole board bows out of Davis clemency bid

Troy Anthony Davis (Photo: Savannah Morning News)

The fate of Troy Anthony Davis moved to the Georgia Supreme Court on Monday after state parole officials voted to suspend his clemency request.

The five members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles said Monday they would "suspend consideration" of a request by attorneys for Davis while the state high court considers the death row inmate's appeal.

"Because the board is no longer considering Davis' case, it no longer has authority to grant a stay, which is therefore suspended," the board noted in a statement issued shortly after midday Monday.

That board had granted Davis a 90-day stay of execution on July 16.

On Friday, the state supreme court voted, 4-3, to hear a discretionary appeal for Davis on his 1991 conviction in the slaying of off-duty Savannah police officer Mark Allen MacPhail.

But, in a two-paragraph order, the high court also dismissed Davis' motion to stay his execution.

"As the recent order of the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles suspending Davis' execution has rendered his motion to stay execution moot, it is hereby dismissed," the court ruled.

Arguments in the motion for a new trial are expected to be heard during the high court's three-month fall term, which begins Sept. 4, spokeswoman Jane Hansen said Monday.

At issue is Chatham County Superior Court Judge Penny Haas Freesemann's denial of Davis' extraordinary motion for a new trial. She rejected the 11th-hour appeal, ruling that lawyers for Davis had failed to meet the requirements for their request.

That ruling, based solely on the pleadings and without a hearing, came late on July 13 - just days before Davis, 38, was scheduled for execution by lethal injection in the MacPhail case.

The next Monday, the Board of Pardons and Paroles granted Davis a 90-day stay of execution - until midnight Oct. 14, or until the board issues an order lifting the stay - while it considered material presented that day.

The board was scheduled to meet Thursday to hear from Davis' lawyers.

"We will handle what is in the Supreme Court," Chatham County District Attorney Spencer Lawton Jr. said Monday afternoon.

A telephone call Monday to Davis' lawyer, Jason Ewart, in Washington was not returned.

On Aug. 28, 1991, a Chatham County Superior Court jury convicted Davis of murder and related charges in MacPhail's slaying. The officer was gunned down Aug. 19, 1989, in the parking lot of the Greyhound Bus Terminal at Oglethorpe Avenue and Fahm Street as he went to the assistance of a beating victim.

Defense lawyers argue that a number of the prosecution witnesses have since recanted their testimony. They also contend a number of jurors have had second thoughts about the guilty verdict.

Prosecutors argue the new-trial motion was filed solely for the purpose of delay and presented no new evidence.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice George Carley called the defense action a "complete disregard of the controlling standards for granting such an appeal."

"I find that disregard to be particularly objectionable where, as here, the discretionary appeal authorized by the majority will prolong an already extremely protracted judicial process," Carley wrote.

He called Freesemann's ruling "a thorough and comprehensive order" that relied on precedent governing extraordinary motions for new trial.

Such motions require compliance with six steps to be considered by a court.

Davis remains on death row at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison at Jackson, where executions are carried out.

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