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Execution Of Ga. Man Near Despite Recantations

"It was a lie," Sapp said.

Other key witnesses have told a similar story -- that police prodded them to implicate Davis. The affidavit from Darrell Collins, the friend who was with Davis that night, was typical.

"I told them it was Red and not Troy who was messing with that man, but they didn't want to hear that," Collins, who was 16 at the time, said in his 2002 statement. "The detectives told me, 'Fine, have it your way. Kiss your life goodbye because you're going to jail.' After a couple of hours of the detectives yelling at me and threatening me, I finally broke down and told them what they wanted to hear."

Adding to the confusion, the Georgia attorney general's office, which later looked into the case, portrays Coles as threatening to shoot the homeless man; the district attorney who tried the case has repeatedly said that Davis made the threat.

In late August 1991, a jury convicted Davis in the slaying. He was sentenced to death.

Davis and his family struggled to find lawyers who would pay attention to his appeal. At a key time in his appeal, the Georgia Resource Center, which was representing Davis, underwent a 70 percent budget cut.

"We were getting a lot of law students," Martina Correia, Davis's sister, said.

She eventually found a pro bono lawyer from Arnold & Porter, a well-known firm, on Court TV. But by the time the lawyer took on the case, tracked down witnesses and got depositions recanting some of their original testimony, the courts said it was too late to press the appeal. Indeed, the fact that the new evidence is being presented so late is used to dismiss his attempts to introduce the testimony, his pro bono lawyer, Jason Ewart, said.

Prosecutors have dismissed the significance of the new testimony.

"A recantation . . . does not prove that the witness' testimony was in every part the purest fabrication," Chief Assistant District Attorney David T. Lock wrote in legal papers filed last week.

Yet a sense that procedure, rather than the question of innocence, has driven the case has led Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson (D) to explore changes in the law that would allow appeals courts to more readily review such cases.

None of the new rules seems likely to help Davis before Tuesday, however.

"I just think they made a mistake in the investigation," Davis said by phone last week. "I'm just trying to hold up. . . . I'm trying to maintain my faith that God will step in and soften the judge's heart."

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