After the U.S. Supreme Court denied a last-minute stay of execution, the state of Georgia executed Troy Davis Wednesday night for the murder of an off-duty police officer, pronouncing him dead at 11:08 p.m.
Davis had convinced hundreds of thousands of people he was innocent, but no court was willing to overturn his conviction.
In his final moments, as Davis was strapped to a gurney in the death chamber, he nodded slightly to his attorney, and then made a statement saying he was not responsible for the 1989 slaying of Mark MacPhail. “I am innocent. The incident that happened that night is not my fault,” Davis said.
Davis told his supporters to “continue to fight the fight.”
AP reporter Greg Bluestein, one of five reporters to witness the execution, writes that Davis gave a message to executioners just before he was given the lethal injection, saying: “God have mercy on your souls.”
Then, “Davis blinked his eyes rapidly. He squeezed them tight. The curtain closed,” Bluestein writes.
Anneliese MacPhail, the mother of the victim, told told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “I don't hate him... The hate is gone. He disgusts me. ... I want my justice. I just want it done.”
After the sentence was carried out, she said: “It is over.”
When CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewed MacPhail after the execution, he asked her if it was possible to have peace now that Davis was gone.
“I sure hope so,” she responded. “I’m working on it, I’ll tell you that. Because we have been through hell. He did this. Nobody made him do it; it was his choice. So. I lost my son, the father of my grandchildren, and I have been very hurt and very upset with all these things that have been going on for years. So I want it to come to an end.”
Outside the prison, hundreds of supporters staged vigils leading up to the court’s final decision, many of them wearing t-shirts or carrying signs that read: “I am Troy Davis.”
The execution was delayed for more than four hours as the Supreme Court weighed last-minute arguments from Davis' legal team. When the court announced that Davis would still be executed, it did comment on its order.
The last time Davis was before the Supreme Court, however, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia explained why Davis was not a free man:
This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is “actually” innocent... Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged “actual innocence” is constitutionally cognizable.
After the court announcement, AP writes, “the scene [outside the prison] turned eerily quiet,” and demonstrators began “hugging, crying, praying, holding candles and gathering around Davis’ family.”
About 10 counterdemonstrators were also outside the prison, to show support for the death penalty or for MacPhail’s family.
On Twitter, Davis’s supporters rallied around the hashtag #deargeorgia, sending messages to the state asking to stop his execution, some of them quoting Martin Luther King Jr., writing, “Dear Georgia: He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.”
After the execution, supporters began to use the hashtag #RIPTroyDavis. One person wrote, “Dear Georgia, we don't know if Troy Davis killed a man. Neither do you. But we know you killed Troy Davis. RIP Troy Davis.”
I want to thank all of you for your efforts and dedication to Human Rights and Human Kindness... As I look at my mail from across the globe, from places I have never ever dreamed I would know about... I am humbled by the emotion that fills my heart with overwhelming, overflowing Joy...
“There are so many more Troy Davis’,” he also wrote, saying:
This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe.
Davis was convicted in 1991 of killing MacPhail, who was working as a security guard when he was shot while aiding a homeless person. Nine witnesses identified Davis as the shooter, and prosecutors said shell casings were linked to an earlier shooting for which Davis was convicted.
Later, however, most of the witnesses said they changed their mind about Davis being the shooter, and no physical evidence was ever found to link Davis to the crime.
At a news conference Wednesday, Davis’ sister Martina Correia spoke, saying “They say, ‘I am Troy Davis,’ in languages he can’t speak... Troy Davis has impacted the world.”