663,000 Signatures Delivered to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles

posted Sep 15, 2011, 3:34 PM by Kathryn Hamoudah   [ updated Aug 31, 2012, 8:29 AM by GFADP staff ]
This morning, over half a million petitions were delivered to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles urging them to grant Troy Davis clemency. Thank you to all who signed a petition, asked a friend to sign, gathered signatures and/or helped us canvass in Savannah.  

Here's the result:
663000 Petitions.JPG

I have included a media round-up from today’s press conference, including a clip from CNN. You'll also find the Op-Eds from conservative voices, William Sessions and Bob Barr.
See you all tomorrow at 6pm for the March and Vigil. For more information, visit www.gfadp.org.

Photo of the Day: Troy Davis petitions delivered

Posted by Thomas Wheatley on Thu, Sep 15, 2011 at 3:49 PM

Kung Li organizes boxes containing more than 600,000 signatures in support of clemency for death-row inmate Troy Davis in the reception area of the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles at the James
  • Joeff Davis
  • Kung Li organizes boxes containing more than 600,000 signatures in support of clemency for death-row inmate Troy Davis in the reception area of the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles at the James "Sloppy" Floyd Building in Atlanta.
Death-penalty opponents and civil rights leaders this morning delivered more than 600,000 petition signatures to the state Board of Pardons and Paroles asking officials to grant clemency to Troy Davis, the long-time death-row inmate who's maintained he didn't kill Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail more than 20 years ago. More than 40,000 signatures were collected in Georgia.
According to Amnesty International, a human rights group which has helped raise awareness about Davis' case, nine individuals have signed affidavits implicating another man for the officer's killing.
"Mark MacPhail is a hero and we grieve for his mother and family," the NAACP's Edward DuBose said at a morning news conference. But "too many people have come forward and said Troy Davis did not kill MacPhail."
The five-member Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, which meets Monday, is most likely the last hope for Davis, who's scheduled to be executed on Sept. 21. A majority vote by the board will decide whether Davis' sentence is commuted or if his execution will proceed.

Troy Davis in spotlight again as execution nears

The Associated Press
4:51 p.m. Thursday, September 15, 2011
ATLANTA — Hundreds of thousands of people are rallying behind Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis — not just because they oppose capital punishment but because they believe the state could put an innocent man to death. The case is fraught with drama: The murder of an off-duty police officer. Conflicting eyewitness testimony. Last-minute court decisions sparing a condemned man's life and global dignitaries who say they fear an innocent man could die.
Davis has captured considerable attention because of the doubt raised over whether he killed Mark MacPhail in Savannah in 1989. The U.S. Supreme Court even granted Davis a hearing to prove his innocence, the first time it had done so for a death row inmate in at least 50 years, but he couldn't convince a judge to grant him a new trial.
The officer's family believes there's no doubt that Davis killed MacPhail and prosecutors say the right man was convicted.
Davis is scheduled to die Wednesday, the fourth time his execution has been set in four years. He once came within two hours of being put to death. His attorneys say his legal appeals are exhausted and the chances of him winning another reprieve have dwindled.
Still, supporters hope to convince Georgia's pardons board next week to spare his life.
Executing Davis "risks taking the life of an innocent man and would be a grave miscarriage of justice," said former President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat from Georgia and death penalty opponent who wrote a letter on Davis' behalf.
"We believe that in this particular case there's enough evidence to the contrary to prevent this execution from taking place," Carter said Tuesday.
Conservative figures have also become involved. Former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, who served under President George W. Bush, urged the pardons board to grant Davis clemency because "it is clear now that the doubts plaguing his case can never be adequately addressed." And former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr said in a letter that "even for death penalty supporters such as myself, the level of doubt inherent in this case is troubling."
MacPhail was working a late-night shift as a security guard on Aug. 19, 1989, when he saw a homeless man who had been pistol-whipped at a nearby Burger King parking lot. He rushed to help.
Moments after MacPhail approached Davis and two other men, he was shot in the face and the chest. He died before help arrived.
Witnesses identified Davis as the shooter and shell casings were linked to an earlier shooting Davis was convicted of. There was no other physical evidence. No blood or DNA tied Davis to the crime, the weapon was never located and several witnesses who testified at his 1991 trial have disputed all or parts of their testimony.
One of them, Harriet Murray, told the jury she saw Davis pistol-whip her friend. She identified him as MacPhail's killer in a police photo lineup and later pointed to him as the shooter in court, saying he was smirking when he pulled the trigger.
But 11 years later, Murray gave defense attorneys a more vague account of the shooting and didn't name Davis as the killer. Others who did not testify at the trial have since said another man admitted shooting MacPhail.
Prosecutors say many of the concerns about the witness testimony were raised during the trial, and allegations that someone else later confessed are inconsistent and inadmissible in court.
Those questions compelled anti-death penalty groups to get involved. Amnesty International, a human rights organization, started its campaign in February 2007. It printed a report looking at the case and sent it to thousands of members across the globe.
"It took a lot of work for us to break through the noise, and to be serious about the questions of doubt and innocence," said Laura Moye of Amnesty International.
The group inspired Gautam Narula, a University of Georgia student, to fight for Davis' life. Narula plans to attend a rally on Davis' behalf in Atlanta on Friday.
"If it's true that Davis is innocent, this is something that could happen to anyone," said Narula, who has also visited Davis on death row. "Someone was sentenced to death for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. And that means that anyone could be Troy Davis. It happened to be him and it could happen to any of us."
That's the message of the NAACP's "I am Troy" campaign. More than 100,000 people have signed an online petition asking the five-member Georgia pardons board to spare his life. On Thursday, advocacy groups handed over to the board thousands of petitions with the names of more than 660,000 people who support Davis.
Big-name supporters began advocating for Davis in 2007. Pope Benedict XVI's U.S. envoy sent a letter pleading for his life, and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu urged the courts to review his case. The Rev. Al Sharpton visited him on death row, and plans to return to Atlanta Friday to help lead a rally to support Davis.
A group of 27 former judges and prosecutors, including Barr, Thompson and one-time FBI Director William Sessions, asked the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009 for the rare innocence hearing to "prevent a potential miscarriage of justice."
The high court granted the hearing, a momentous decision because death penalty appeals typically look only at questions of procedure and constitutional violations, not guilt or innocence.
During two days of testimony in June 2010, U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr. heard from two witnesses who said they falsely incriminated Davis and two others who said another man had confessed to being MacPhail's killer in the years since Davis' trial.
Moore said the evidence cast some additional doubt on Davis' conviction, but that it was "largely smoke and mirrors" and not enough to vindicate Davis or grant him a new trial.
Some of MacPhail's family members blame the advocacy groups for drumming up the worldwide interest.
"I just think they should stay away. They don't know the case, they're just running their mouths," said Anneliese MacPhail, the slain officer's mother. "It's none of their business. They don't know all the circumstances."

Barr: Troy Davis merits clemency

Posted: September 14, 2011 - 12:45am
In 2007, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles declared that it “will not allow an execution to proceed in this state unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused.”
That is the final admirable principle standing between Troy Anthony Davis and his death by lethal injection on Sept. 21.
And it is a standard the parole board should uphold, because there is considerable doubt surrounding the guilt of Troy Anthony Davis.
Davis was convicted in 1991 of the 1989 murder of Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail. But there was no physical evidence brought to trial to support his conviction: No murder weapon, no DNA evidence, no surveillance tapes.
Nine so-called eyewitnesses testified in the trial, and it was on the basis of their testimony that Davis was sentenced to death. Seven of those witnesses, however, have since recanted or materially changed their stories. The jury, for instance, relied on two people who did not witness the crime but who testified that Davis had confessed to the shooting; both have since said they were lying.
With the witness recantations and the absence of hard evidence, the U.S. Supreme Court took the extraordinary step of ordering a lower court to conduct an evidentiary hearing in the case.
But the federal judge set the bar much higher than the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. Finding — astonishingly for the first time — that executing an innocent man is unconstitutional, the court then required Davis to prove that he was innocent.
Proving one’s innocence is a far more difficult standard than establishing doubts as to one’s guilt. In fact, proving actual innocence has the effect of flipping our system of criminal jurisprudence on its head: Instead of a presumption of innocence and a requirement by the state to prove guilt.
In Davis’ evidentiary hearing the court presumed guilt and required the condemned to prove his innocence. Even the judge deemed the standard “extraordinarily high.” Proving one’s innocence of a crime is a potentially insurmountable task — one Davis was unable to meet. But while Davis was unable to “prove” his innocence, he established considerable doubts as to his guilt, prompting the judge to acknowledge that the state’s case against him was “not ironclad.”
I am a longtime supporter of the death penalty. I make no judgment as to whether Davis is guilty or innocent. And surely the citizens of Savannah and the state of Georgia want justice served on behalf of Officer MacPhail.
But imposing an irreversible sentence of death on the skimpiest of evidence will not serve the interest of justice. By granting clemency, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles will adhere to the most sacred principles of American jurisprudence, and will keep a man from being executed when we cannot be assured of his guilt.
Bob Barr is a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia and was elected to serve four terms in the United States Congress.

Should Davis be executed? No

By William S. Sessions
6:47 a.m. Thursday, September 15, 2011
No: Questions about his guilt continue to plague his conviction.
As Troy Davis faces his fourth execution date on Sept. 21, many may assume that lingering doubts about the case have been resolved. This is far from true, and the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles — which has several new members since the Davis case last crossed its desks — has the daunting task of reviewing one of the most controversial cases the state has ever seen.
What quickly will become apparent is that serious questions about Davis’ guilt, highlighted by witness recantations, allegations of police coercion and a lack of relevant physical evidence, continue to plague his conviction. Last summer, an extraordinary hearing ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court to answer these questions instead left us with more doubt.
At Davis’ evidentiary hearing, witnesses called by Davis recanted trial testimony and made allegations of police pressure. Others testified that an alternative suspect had confessed to them that he committed the crime. One eyewitness testified, for the first time, that he saw this other suspect, a relative of his, commit the crime. Police witnesses for the state of Georgia alternatively asserted that the original trial testimony was the true version of events and that it was elicited without coercion.
Some of these same witnesses also had testified at Davis’ trial but have since recanted their trial testimony. The judge at the evidentiary hearing found their recantations to be unreliable and, therefore, found Davis was unable to “clearly establish” his innocence. The problem is that the testimony of these same witnesses, whom the judge had determined were less believable, had been essential to the original conviction and death sentence.
What the hearing demonstrated most conclusively was that the evidence in this case — consisting almost entirely of conflicting stories, testimonies and statements — is inadequate to the task of convincingly establishing either Davis’ guilt or his innocence. Without DNA or other forms of physical or scientific evidence that can be objectively measured and tested, it is possible that doubts about guilt in this case will never be resolved.
However, when it comes to the sentence of death, there should be no room for doubt. I believe there is no more serious crime than the murder of a law enforcement officer who was putting his or her life on the line to protect innocent bystanders. However, justice is not done for Officer Mark Allen MacPhail Sr. if the wrong man is punished.
In 2007, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles issued a stay of execution for Davis and took the admirable position that it would “not allow an execution to proceed in this State unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused.”
Because this case continues to be permeated by doubt, the Board of Pardons and Paroles’ stance continues to be the right one. In reality, there will always be cases, including capital cases, in which doubts about guilt cannot be erased to an acceptable level of certainty. The Davis case is one of these, and it is for cases like this that executive clemency exists.
Those responsible for clemency play a vital role in ensuring our legal system includes a measure of compassion and humanity. The death penalty should not be carried out, and Davis’ sentence should be commuted to life.
William S. Sessions is the former director of the FBI, a former federal judge and federal prosecutor.