UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Clock ticks on Troy Davis execution

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17 Sep 2011
Topic: Abolition of the Death Penalty
A US man facing the death penalty is set to have a clemency hearing on Monday, 19 September, which could decide his fate.

If clemency is rejected, Troy Davis, who was sentenced to death in 1991 for the murder of police officer Mark Allen MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia, is due to be executed two days later on 21 September.
“Monday’s hearing gives Georgia’s Board of Pardons and Paroles the opportunity finally to grant clemency in this case,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Deputy Director of the Americas Regional Programme at Amnesty International’s International Secretariat

“When it looked at this case in 2007, the Board said that it would not allow the execution to proceed if its members had any doubts about the prisoner’s guilt” she said. “We trust that it will recognize that doubts persist four years later.”

The case against Troy Davis primarily rested on witness testimony. Since his 1991 trial, seven of nine key witnesses have recanted or changed their testimony, some alleging police coercion.

This is the third time that the Board of Pardons is considering the Troy Davis case.

“While we acknowledge the seriousness of the crime for which Troy Davis was sentenced to death, the doubt surrounding his conviction is surely enough reason to commute his sentence even for supporters of the death penalty,” Guadalupe Marengo added.

Amnesty International activists have campaigned extensively on his behalf, delivering more than 660,000 signatures to authorities in Georgia to urge them to commute his death sentence: vigils and events have been held in approximately 300 locations around the world.

This is Troy Davis’ fourth execution date in four years. The doubts over his conviction compound the inescapable cruelty of the death penalty, a punishment that subjects death row inmates and their families to a cycle of hope and despair.

In July 2007 Troy Davis was less than 24 hours from execution when the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles issued a stay.

He faced two other execution dates in 2008, both of which were stayed by the courts.

Since Troy Davis has been on death row, more than 90 prisoners have been released from death rows around the USA on grounds of innocence. In each case, at trial the defendant had been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

In the past four years, three states in the USA - New Jersey, New Mexico and Illinois - have legislated to abolish the death penalty. When signing those bills into law, the governors of each state pointed to the risk of irreversible error as a reason for abolition.

In contrast to the 139 countries worldwide that have ended executions in law or practice, the USA currently has more than 3,200 people on its death rows, and has executed more than 1,200 prisoners since resuming judicial killing in 1977. Currently Georgia has over 100 people on its death row and three people have been executed in this state in 2011 already.

16 September 2011

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