Monday, 8 December 2014

The Controversial Execution of Troy Davis

Troy Davis

When thinking of the most controversial death row cases, it is hard not to immediately think of Troy Davis. Born in October 1968, Davis was executed by the state of Georgia on September 21st 2011. 

Troy Davis' story starts on August 19th, 1989, when Marc McPhail, a police officer working as a security guard for Burger King was brutally murdered as he jumped to the defence of a man being insulted in a car park nearby. Troy Davis, who up to then had dabbled in petty criminal activity, was arrested soon after. During his trial, no fewer than seven witnesses confirmed they had seen Davis shoot Mr McPhail. Another two witnesses also testified that Davis had made direct confessions to them about McPhail's murder. As well as a total of 34 witnesses, the prosecution had ballistics evidence they claimed implicated Davis as the killer. This was despite no weapon ever being recovered. Rather, bullet casings found at the scene were said to match those found at the scene of another crime for which Troy Davis had been charged. In August 1991, Davis was found guilty of murder, as well as other lesser charges and sentenced to death. 

In the 20 years between Davis' conviction and execution, he did nothing but protest his innocence. As well as Amnesty International and The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Davis soon gained support from celebrities and the general public. Former President, Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, Desmond Tutu and the former director of the FBI, were just some of the high profile names who were calling for Troy Davies to be granted a new evidentiary hearing. Although Davis was scheduled to be executed in July 2007, September 2008 and October 2008, all were granted a stay not long before the execution took place. In 2009, the U.S District Court for the Southern District of Georgia was ordered by the Supreme Court to acknowledge evidence that proved Troy Davis was innocent of Marc McPhail's murder. This evidence apparently HAD been available at the time of the Davis trial but it hadn't been considered. 

In June 2010, a new evidentiary hearing was held. Troy Davis' defence produced affadavits for seven of the nine people who had originally said they had seen Troy Davis murder the police officer or had listened to his confession. The affidavits confirmed these people had changed or recanted their original statements. In fact, several implicated another person, Sylvestor Coles, as the actual shooter. The very person Troy Davis had spent nearly 20 years saying was the true perpetrator of the crime. Despite this evidence, the original conviction was upheld,with the district court accusing the defence of putting on a "smoke and mirrors" show. It was even inferred that several of the alleged affidavits were not even recantations at all. 

Troy Davis continued to appeal his conviction, all of which were dismissed. Davis was soon given his fourth execution date, September 21st 2011. The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles received petitions containing over 1 million signatures asking for Davis to be granted clemency. This wasn't to be however, and Troy Davis was executed by lethal execution and declared dead at 11.08pm on September 21st 2011. 

The Troy Davis case was the second most active event on Twitter in 2011, with around 7671 tweets per second being recorded just before Davis' execution. His funeral was attended by several big names as well as 1000 others. 

The Troy Davis case remains controversial to this day, some three years after his death, with many people believing an innocent man was executed. Unfortunately, the truth is unlikely never to be known but the name Troy Davis is unlikely to be forgotten any time soon.

Troy Davis had huge public support.

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