Planned execution of Troy Davis sends activists into the streets


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With time running out for Troy Davis -- the condemned man convicted of killing a Savannah, Ga., police officer -- activists are planning to take to the streets of Atlanta on Friday night to demand that his execution be stayed.

The Rev. Al Sharpton and NAACP President Benjamin Jealous will lead a 6 p.m. march from Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta to Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached. There, they will pray and hear from death row exonerees, former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, and folk duo the Indigo Girls, among others.


Davis is to be executed Wednesday. This week, Amnesty International said it delivered more than 500,000 signatures to the state Board of Pardons and Paroles, which will hold a clemency hearing for Davis on Monday.

The parole board declined to grant Davis clemency at a hearing in 2008.

The fate of Davis, 41, has become a worldwide concern. Former President Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu are among those who have raised questions about his guilt. The Atlanta march is one of 300 rallies, vigils and other events organized worldwide by Amnesty International in what it is billing as a ‘Global Day of Amnesty for Troy Davis.’

Davis was convicted of shooting and killing Savannah Police Officer Mark MacPhail on an August evening in 1989 while the officer was trying to help a homeless man who was being attacked in a Burger King parking lot.

His 1991 conviction was followed by long, dramatic and complicated series of legal skirmishes, including intervention by the U.S. Supreme Court, which two years ago ordered a lower court judge to hear new evidence in the case. In August 2010, U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr. ruled that Davis failed to make the case for his innocence, declaring that the new evidence that had emerged since Davis’ trial was ‘largely smoke and mirrors,’ the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The group of high-profile observers concerned that the state of Georgia may be executing an innocent man come from both liberal and conservative camps.

William S. Sessions, a former FBI director under presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, argued in the Journal-Constitution on Thursday that ‘serious questions about Davis’ guilt’ remained. The case, Sessions said, was ‘highlighted by witness recantations, allegations of police coercion and a lack of relevant physical evidence.’


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-- Richard Fausset