The state of Georgia executed Troy Anthony Davis [advocacy website; JURIST news archive] Wednesday night after his eleventh-hour appeal for clemency was denied [order, PDF] by the US Supreme Court. Davis was put to death by lethal injection, the three-drug cocktail that first put the condemned man in an induced coma through an administration of pentobarbital, followed by an injection of pancuronium bromide. Finally potassium chloride stopped his heart, and Davis was pronounced dead at 23:08 EST. From the time he was sentenced to death in 1991 Davis has maintained that he was wrongfully convicted of the murder of off-duty police officer Mark Allen MacPhail, the Savannah officer who was shot to death in 1989 in a parking lot while attempting to aid a homeless man who was being assaulted. Still proclaiming his innocence to the witnesses gathered around the execution chamber, Davis asked his family and friends to continue to search for truth in his case, which in the last decade has garnered significant support from advocacy groups around the world, in addition to high-profile individuals including former US president Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI and former FBI director William Sessions. Davis' prosecution relied heavily on the testimony of eyewitnesses, most of whom have recanted their testimony, and many of whom have signed affidavits swearing they were pressured or coerced by police, according to Amnesty International USA [advocacy website]. Additionally, nine individuals have signed affidavits implicating as the shooter another man who is also one of the two remaining witnesses who have not recanted their testimonies. Vigils and protests were held Wednesday night in the US and around the world.
Last year, Sara Totonchi [profile] of the Southern Center for Human Rights warned [JURIST comment] that the questions and doubts surrounding Davis' case would make his execution a travesty of justice. Her writing came a few weeks after the US District Court for the Southern District of Georgia [official website] denied [JURIST report] Davis' habeas corpus petition even though the presiding judge noted numerous problems with the evidence presented by the State of Georgia in securing Davis' conviction. The Supreme Court had instructed the district court to examine new findings of fact in the case after taking the rare step of granting [JURIST report] Davis' original writ of habeas corpus [cert. petition, PDF], despite Davis' exhaustion of his appeals under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act [text]. A few weeks after the court had declined to grant certiorari [JURIST report] in 2008, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] granted a provisional stay of execution [JURIST report], directing the parties to address through briefs whether Davis could meet the stringent requirements of federal law that would permit him to file a second habeas corpus petition for federal review of his case. In 2006, the American Bar Association [association website] recommended a moratorium on the death penalty in Georgia and in Alabama [JURIST reports] after an ABA panel study identified numerous flaws in the states' criminal justice systems that it claimed greatly compromised the fair administration of capital punishment. More recently a federal judge ruled [JURIST report] in June that Florida's death penalty procedures are unconstitutional, a holding Richard Dieter [profile] of the Death Penalty Information Center says highlights the arbitrariness of the death penalty [JURIST comment] and the problems with a state exacting an irreversible punishment. Additionally, in March of this year Illinois Governor Pat Quinn [official website] signed into law a bill that abolished the death penalty [JURIST report] in that state.