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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Troy Davis executed after 11th-hour appeal fails

JACKSON, Ga. (AP) — Strapped to a gurney in Georgia's death chamber, Troy Davis lifted his head and declared one last time that he did not kill police officer Mark MacPhail. Just a few feet away behind a glass window, MacPhail's son and brother watched in silence. Outside the prison, a crowd of more than 500 demonstrators cried, hugged, prayed and held candles. The small army represented hundreds of thousands of supporters worldwide who took up the anti-death penalty cause as Davis' final days ticked away. "I am innocent," Davis said moments before he was executed Wednesday night. "All I can ask ... is that you look deeper into this case so that you really can finally see the truth. I ask my family and friends to continue to fight this fight." Prosecutors and MacPhail's family said justice had finally been served. "I'm kind of numb. I can't believe that it's really happened," MacPhail's mother, Anneliese MacPhail, said in a telephone interview from her home in Columbus, Ga. "All the feelings of relief and peace I've been waiting for all these years, they will come later. I certainly do want some peace." She dismissed Davis' claims of innocence. "He's been telling himself that for 22 years. You know how it is, he can talk himself into anything." Davis was scheduled to die at 7 p.m., but the hour came and went as the U.S. Supreme Court apparently weighed the case. More than three hours later, the high court said it wouldn't intervene. The justices did not comment on their order rejecting Davis' request for a stay. Hundreds of thousands of people signed petitions on Davis' behalf and he had prominent supporters. His attorneys said seven of nine key witnesses against him disputed all or parts of their testimony, but state and federal judges repeatedly ruled against him — three times on Wednesday alone. Officer MacPhail's widow, Joan MacPhail-Harris, said it was "a time for healing for all families." "I will grieve for the Davis family because now they're going to understand our pain and our hurt," she said in a telephone interview from Jackson. "My prayers go out to them. I have been praying for them all these years. And I pray there will be some peace along the way for them." Davis' supporters staged vigils in the U.S. and Europe, declaring "I am Troy Davis" on signs, T-shirts and the Internet. Some tried increasingly frenzied measures, urging prison workers to stay home and even posting a judge's phone number online, hoping people would press him to put a stop to the lethal injection. President Barack Obama deflected calls for him to get involved. "They say death row; we say hell no!" protesters shouted outside the Jackson prison before Davis was executed. In Washington, a crowd outside the Supreme Court yelled the same chant. As many as 700 demonstrators gathered outside the prison as a few dozen riot police stood watch, but the crowd thinned as the night wore on and the outcome became clear. Davis was declared dead at 11:08 p.m. The lethal injection began about 15 minutes earlier, after the Supreme Court rejected an 11th-hour request for a stay. The high court did not comment on its order, which came about four hours after it received the request and more than three hours after the planned execution time. Hundreds of thousands of people signed petitions on Davis' behalf, and prominent supporters included former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, former FBI Director William Sessions, the NAACP, several conservative figures and many celebrities, including hip-hop star Sean "P. Diddy" Combs. His attorneys said seven of nine key witnesses against him disputed all or parts of their testimony, but state and federal judges repeatedly ruled against him - three times on Wednesday alone. MacPhail's widow, Joan MacPhail-Harris, said there was "nothing to rejoice," but that it was "a time for healing for all families." Davis' supporters staged vigils in the United States and Europe, declaring "I am Troy Davis" on signs, T-shirts and the Internet. Some tried increasingly frenzied measures, urging prison workers to stay home and even posting a judge's phone number online, hoping people would press him to put a stop to the lethal injection. President Obama deflected calls for him to get involved. "They say death row; we say hell no!" protesters shouted outside the Jackson prison where Davis was executed. In Washington, a crowd outside the Supreme Court yelled the same chant. As many as 700 demonstrators gathered outside the prison as a few dozen riot police stood watch, but the crowd thinned as the night wore on and the outcome became clear. About 10 counterdemonstrators also were there, showing support for the death penalty and the MacPhail family. Davis' execution had been stopped three times since 2007, but Wednesday he ran out of legal options.

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