Troy Davis was executed by lethal injection early today (22 September 2011), despite widespread and significant doubts over the safety of his original conviction for shooting an off-duty Savannah police officer, Mark McPhail in 1989
A high-profile campaign: “Too Much Doubt” saw over one million people worldwide sign a petition to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, calling for them to intervene to prevent the execution. Amnesty International and other campaigners held vigils around the world as the execution approached. One vigil took place outside the US embassy in London.
Pope Benedict XVI, Nobel Laureate and former President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former FBI director William Sessions were among those expressing opposition to the execution. The Council of Europe also called for the sentence to be commuted.
Amnesty International's UK Director Kate Allen said: “I’m outraged and deeply saddened by this. “The eyes of the world were on Georgia as they committed this affront to justice.
“Amnesty is against the death penalty in all circumstances but there was always far too much doubt to even think about executing Troy.
“It was a terrible day for the family of Mark Allen MacPhail back in 1989, but nothing useful has been achieved by taking away the life of another man, except creating further suffering and pain for another family.
“Tonight Georgia may well have executed an innocent man and discredited the US justice system."
Davis had been on death row for over 20 years since being convicted in August 1991 of the killing of MacPhail, who was shot in Savannah, Georgia in 1989. He had always protested his innocence and there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime.
Since the trial, seven of the nine prosecution witnesses recanted or changed their testimonies in sworn affidavits. In 2007, Amnesty International published a report detailing a pattern of police coercion of witnesses ahead of the trial. Ten other people have pointed to one of the remaining witnesses as the actual killer.
Davis had three previous execution dates. In September 2008 he was only two hours away from being executed before the Supreme Court intervened with a stay.
There was confusion last night as the execution was delayed for several hours whilst the Supreme Court considered an eleventh-hour appeal for clemency. It was initially reported that a stay of execution had been granted but a statement finally issued by the Supreme Court read: "The application for stay of execution of sentence of death presented to Justice [Clarence] Thomas and by him referred to the Court is denied."
Davis was pronounced dead at 03:08 GMT this morning, 15 minutes after the lethal injection had been administered.