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Troy Davis may be running out of time. The Georgia man has spent more than half of his life sitting on death row. Despite lack of evidence and witnesses recanting testimony, Georgia judges and the Parole Board have steadfastly refused to release Troy Davis. Davis has escaped execution through last minute appeals and court decisions four different times.
Davis is accused of murdering an off duty Savannah police officer in 1989. The details of the night remain murky but it is clear that someone shot and killed Mark MacPhail. Davis and a friend had seen Sylvester “Redd” Coles that night arguing with a homeless man over a beer. MacPhail was working as a security guard at a Burger King restaurant in Savannah the same night. At about 1:15 a.m., seeking to help the homeless man who was being attacked in a nearby parking lot, MacPhail was killed. He had been shot twice, once through the heart and once in the face. He had not drawn his pistol. Witnesses to the shooting agreed that a man in a white shirt had struck the homeless man, who would later be identified as Larry Young, and then shot MacPhail. The first and most obvious suspect, Coles was the one who initially implicated Davis in the murder. The very next evening, Coles went to the police station and stated that he had seen Davis fighting with Young and had seen Davis with a gun. After that, the man hunt was on. Unfortunately for Davis, he was tried and convicted in the public’s view before his trial took place. Macphail’s murder angered police officers to such an extent that they had “shoot to kill” orders with pictures of Troy, now rechristened the cop killer, flashed across the airwaves. There was no evidence that connected Davis to the crime. The manhunt was based on Coles accusation.
Since Davis’ conviction in 1991, he has steadfastly maintained his innocence. Between the trial and the first set of appeals, seven of the nine prosecution witnesses that had linked Davis to the killing had recanted or contradicted part of their original testimony. These witnesses have signed sworn affidavits stating that they were coerced or pressured by police. Three witnesses that did not testify have stated that Coles is the actual murderer. Coles has not recanted his testimony. Later, it was determined that Coles owned a .38 caliber gun like the alleged murder weapon.
Davis and his attorneys have asked for a new trial to prove his innocence and have been repeatedly denied. Celebrities, such as Desmond Tutu, the Pope, and Jesse Jackson have all decried the sentence. Even with the star power, another execution date will be scheduled for Davis soon. In January, Davis and supporters received another blow. The U.S. Supreme Court denied Davis’s final appeal and did not seem very concerned about the possibility of killing an innocent man. Georgia temporarily halted executions after a federal seizure that took the state’s execution drugs. The state will resume executions now after finding another lethal cocktail to kill people with. Alicia Johnson, a spokesperson for the Chatham County District Attorney, told the Associated Press that the office “was ‘not immediately’ filing paperwork to seek an execution order for Davis.”