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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Troy Davis asks U.S. Supreme Court to halt execution

JACKSON, Ga. — It didn't take long to notice Troy Davis' execution was different from the others I've covered. As I drove up to the prison, I could see the crowds of protesters and a group of at least 50 reporters. I've covered about 10 executions in Georgia. None of them are easy. This was by far the most unusual. There were four reporters besides me there to witness the execution. We ended up waiting for more than four hours in a somber prison break room. We made small talk and speculated about whether the U.S. Supreme Court could intervene. At times, it was silent. Around 10:30 p.m., a guard walked in and said: "You ready?" We were led into a white van and, after passing through several security checkpoints, we were delivered to the squat white building on the edge of the prison that serves as the death chamber. We watched the slain officer's son, Mark MacPhail Jr., enter the building. Behind him, Jason Ewart, the condemned man's attorney, walked in. A county coroner's van rolled up. By the time we were inside, officials had already strapped Davis to the gurney. There was a glass window with a curtain separating Davis from the witnesses, who sat in three rows of seats. There were about 20 of us. Davis searched for Ewart, who nodded slightly when they locked eyes. MacPhail Jr., sitting in the front row, focused on Davis. With execution set for 7 p.m. EDT, the lawyers said they would soon file a more substantial appeal citing “constitutional errors” that have arisen in the case. Davis was convicted of the 1989 killing of Savannah, Ga., police Officer Mark MacPhail, but maintains his innocence. After his 1991 trial, some witnesses recanted their testimony. Two years ago, the high court took the unusual step of ordering a federal judge in Savannah to review the evidence in Davis’ case and to decide whether new testimony undercut his guilt. But after hearing the witnesses, U.S. District Judge William T. Moore described the new evidence as “largely smoke and mirrors” and upheld Davis’s death sentence. Since then, the high court has turned away further appeals from Davis. Earlier Wednesday, the Georgia Supreme Court refused to intervene.

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