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In Georgia, clock ticks toward execution of Troy Davis

September 21, 2011 |  6:40 am

Support for Troy Davis
With few clemency options remaining, the last hours of life appear to be ticking away for Troy Davis, the Georgia man facing execution Wednesday for the 1989 shooting death of off-duty Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail.

This will be the fourth scheduled execution date for the 42-year-old Davis, whose case has garnered worldwide concern after witnesses recanted the stories that helped convict him.

Davis is on death watch at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, about 45 minutes south of Atlanta. He will have time to say goodbye to his family, eat his last meal, and have a chance to make a statement before he is executed by lethal injection at 7 p.m. EDT, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Amnesty International plans to protest outside the prison Wednesday afternoon.

Davis was denied clemency by Georgia's Board of Pardons and Paroles on Tuesday morning. He has few remaining options to avoid death. Supporters say one possibility is for the Chatham County district attorney, Larry Chisolm, to ask a state court judge to withdraw Davis' death warrant.

The NAACP is among those urging people to sign an online petition to Chisolm.

Blogs and social media sites have been crucial in sustaining interest in the 2-decade-old case among liberals and African American activists, many of whom have accused the justice system of falling into a pattern of Old South injustice. Davis is black, and his alleged victim was white; critics say that Savannah police coerced African American witnesses to make specious statements to conform to their suspicion that Davis was the killer.

Wayne Bennett, the Philadelphia lawyer who blogs as the "Field Negro," has followed the case closely. Bennett, who typically writes with a mix of humor and fury, struck a sober note in a Tuesday post on Davis: "... once again, we have diminished ourselves as a people and a country by our actions."

Bennett said he never believed in the innocence of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the convicted killer of a Philadelphia police officer, but "I am not so sure about the guilt of Troy Davis, and if the folks clamoring for him to get the needle are going to be honest with themselves; they would have to tell you that they aren't either."

The website for Atlanta's NBC television affiliate, WXIA-TV, posted an interview Wednesday with the original prosecutor in the Davis case, Spencer Lawton, who dismissed the new doubts about the case as "manufactured."

He pointed to last year's review of the new evidence by a federal district court judge. The judge found that some of the recantations were partial, that others were unbelievable or contradicted by other credible evidence, and that some were introduced into court in affadavit form -- which carries less weight than when a witness takes the stand, because the witness is not subject to cross-examination by the state.

"There's nothing pleasing about any of this. I'm no fan of the death penalty," Lawton told the station. "This is not something I like. ... But we live in an unpleasant world, and a police officer was murdered. The consequences that derive from that fact can't be happy."

Lawton's other well-known case was the murder trial of Jim Williams, the Savannah antique dealer who was acquitted after being charged with the slaying of a male prostitute. The case was chronicled in the bestselling John Berendt book, "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil."

RELATED:

Georgia board denies clemency for Troy Davis

High court turns down appeal of officer's killer

Case of death row inmate Troy Davis puts new D.A. in tight spot

-- Richard Fausset in Atlanta

Photo: A protester spreads out sheets, collecting handprints and signatures during a rally to show support for death row inmate Troy Davis at the Capitol in Atlanta on Tuesday. Credit: John Amis / Reuters 

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