Supreme Court doesn't explain Troy Davis delay
It takes five of the nine justices to order a halt to a state execution. And few legal experts expected a majority of the high court to stop the Davis execution since the justices had denied his final substantive appeals earlier this year.
However, several of the liberal justices have filed dissents in recent executions. In late June, for example, the court cleared the way for a Mexican national to be executed in Texas over the objections of the State Department, but the decision came on a 5-4 vote. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan disagreed.
No dissents were recorded in the Davis case. About 10:20 p.m., the court released a one-line order saying that the “application for stay of execution of sentence of death presented to Justice Thomas and by him referred to the court is denied.”
Justice Clarence Thomas is the justice for the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Georgia, Florida and Alabama. Although emergency appeals are sent first to the justice who oversees the circuit, all nine justices decide the issue.
Davis was pronounced dead at 11:08 p.m., about four hours after his scheduled execution. He was convicted of the 1989 murder of Savannah, Ga., police officer Mark MacPhail, who was off-duty at the time, but maintained his innocence until the end.
While strapped to a gurney in the death chamber, Davis told MacPhail's relatives that the incident that August night 22 years ago was not his fault, according to media witnesses. He said he did not even have a gun.
“I personally did not kill your son, father and brother,” he said. “I am innocent.”
-- David G. Savage in Washington
Photo: Minister Lynn Hopkins, left, comforts her partner, Carolyn Bond, in Jackson, Ga., after hearing that the U.S. Supreme Court had rejected a last-minute stay of execution for Troy Davis. Credit: Stephen Morton / Associated Press