Troy Davis, 42, was executed by lethal injection after a last minute appeal to the US Supreme Court failed, and his request to take a polygraph test was also turned down.
Mr. Davis, 42, who was convicted of murdering a Savannah police officer 22 years ago, entered the death chamber shortly before 11 p.m., four hours after the scheduled time. He died at 11:08.
Davis maintained his innocence to the end, saying: “I did not have a gun. For those about to take my life, may God have mercy on your souls. May God bless your souls.”
Davis addressed some comments to the family of his victim while he was strapped to the gurney. He told them: “I did not personally kill your son, father, brother.” He also asked his supporters to “dig deeper” into the case so they could “find the real truth.”
It is known that Davis spent his last hours praying and talking to his family and supporters. He declined an offer of a special last meal. Mr. Davis was convicted shooting of Officer MacPhail in 1989. The officer was working a second job as a security guard.
According to court testimony a homeless man called for help after a group that included Mr. Davis began to assault him,. When Officer MacPhail went to assist him, he was shot in the face and the heart.
Witnesses claimed that Davis was at the scene and identified him as the gunman. Shell casings found in the car park were linked to an earlier shooting that he was convicted of.
But the murder weapon was never found and there was no other physical evidence, such as blood or DNA, to tie Davis to the crime. His lawyers claimed he was a victim of mistaken identity.
Davis had received support from high profile figures including former Pope Benedict XVI, President Jimmy Carter and former FBI Director William Sessions. Nearly one million people signed a petition to the pardons board.
Some jurors have since changed their minds about his guilt. On Tuesday, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, which has sole authority to commute a death sentence in the state, rejected Davis’ plea for clemency, essentially sealing his fate.
Afterward, Davis’ attorneys and legal advocates quickly decried the execution as a terrible miscarriage of justice.
“I had the unfortunate opportunity tonight to witness a tragedy, to witness Georgia execute an innocent man,” Jason Ewart, one of Davis’ attorneys, said outside the prison. “The innocent have no enemy but time, and Troy’s time slipped away tonight.”
White House Press secretary Jay Carney issued a statement saying that although President Barack Obama “has worked to ensure accuracy and fairness in the criminal justice system,” it was not appropriate for him “to weigh in on specific cases like this one, which is a state prosecution.”
Before Wednesday, Mr. Davis had walked to the brink of execution three times. Inside the prison, Officer MacPhail’s widow, Joan MacPhail-Harris, said calling Mr. Davis a victim was ludicrous.
“We have lived this for 22 years,” she said on Monday. “We are victims. She added: “We have laws in this land so that there is not chaos. We are not killing Troy because we want to.”
News of the execution quieted hundreds of protesters who had lined the highway across from the entrance to the prison for hours, chanting and singing as they faced a small army of baton-wielding prison guards in full riot gear, sheriff’s deputies and state police. The crowd of protesters was quickly dispersed by police after Davis’ death was announced.
Jason Ewart, Davis attorney, said he hoped Davis death would lead to systematic reform.
“This case struck a chord in the world, and as a result the legacy of Troy Davis doesn’t die tonight,” Ewart said, standing beside Davis’ family members outside Georgia’s death row.
“Our sadness, the sadness of his friends and his family, is tempered by the hope that Troy’s death will lead to fundamental legal reforms,” he said, “so we will never again witness, with inevitable regret, the execution of an innocent man as we did here tonight.” [via The Telegraph, Huff Post and The New York Times]