Troy Davis execution sparks anti-death penalty backlash, protests

September 22, 2011

Georgia inmate Troy Davis was denied a last-minute Supreme Court stay on his execution, and was pronounced dead by lethal injection just after 11 p.m. Wednesday . As BlogPost’s Elizabeth Flock reported:

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.

The execution has given new life to the debate over the death penalty, with notable figures like former President Jimmy Carter using Davis’ s case as an example of the policy’s faults. As AP explained:

Georgia’s execution of Troy Davis for the murder of an off-duty police officer has done little to resolve the debate over his guilt that captured the attention of thousands worldwide, including a former president and the pope.

Davis remained defiant even after he was strapped to a gurney Wednesday night in the state’s death chamber, declaring his innocence and urging the victim’s family to continue searching for the truth.

“I ask my family and friends to continue to fight this fight,” Davis said in his final statement.

Demonstrators wept during a candlelight vigil outside the prison. High-profile figures, including former President Jimmy Carter, said there was too much doubt surrounding Davis’ conviction and that his execution called the entire death penalty system into question.

Carter said he hoped the case led the nation to reject capital punishment. “If one of our fellow citizens can be executed with so much doubt surrounding his guilt, then the death penalty system in our country is unjust and outdated,” Carter said.

Other supporters included, Pope Benedict XVI, a former FBI director, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, several conservative figures and many celebrities.

Hundreds of thousands of people signed petitions on Davis’ behalf. Supporters staged vigils in the U.S. and Europe, declaring “I am Troy Davis” on signs, T-shirts and the Internet. Some tried increasingly frenzied measures, urging prison workers to stay home and even posting a judge’s phone number online. President Barack Obama, who could not have granted Davis clemency because it was a state case, deflected calls to get involved.

Students and at least one professor from Howard University were arrested outside the White House on Wednesday night as people protested the execution of Troy Davis. As Jeremy Borden and Clarence Williams reported:

A total of 13 people from Howard University--one a professor and the rest, students-- were arrested outside the White House Wednesday while protesting the pending execution of Georgia inmate Troy Davis.

Soon after protesters arrived, police cordoned off the sidewalk area in front of the White House and moved them into Lafayette Square, students and witnesses said. More than a dozen students, along with a Howard English professor, sat along the fence and refused to move, said Marcus Ware, a third-year law student and one of the protest’s organizers.

The protesters felt strongly about their right to position themselves against the White House fence, other witnesses said.

Police gave the students and the professor three warnings to move, before arresting them, Ware said.

Twelve people were arrested for failure to obey a lawful police order and the professor was arrested for crossing a police line, said Sgt. David Schlosser, a U.S. Park Police spokesman.

Protesters were later allowed back in front of the White House.

More from The Washington Post

In his final words, Davis maintains innocence in killing of officer

Carter: Execution of Troy Davis shows death penalty ‘unjust and outdated’

‘For Troy Davis, we pray to the Lord’

Cameron Todd Willingham, others remembered as Troy Davis executed

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