In 1989, nine eyewitnesses said Davis had killed off-duty Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail. Today, seven of the nine have recanted, two other witnesses now say another man is guilty, and no physical evidence has tied Davis to the crime.
Hundreds of thousands of supporters say Davis shouldn’t be executed. In the same month in which Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the front runner for the GOP presidential nomination, said he wouldn’t lose any sleep over those executed in his state, Davis’s case has become the most high-profile death penalty controversy in recent memory. And those following the case say it could have lasting impact.
Jonathan Perri, a senior organizer on criminal justice for Change.org, which helped organize a campaign to save Davis, calls this case unique for “how broad the outpouring of support is.”
“People from all different religious denominations and both sides of the political spectrum have come out in support of Davis,” Perri says. “Because there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty surrounding this case.”
A quarter of a million people have signed the group’s petition to request that Davis’s death warrant be withdrawn, becoming one of the most popular campaigns ever for Change.org.
Former president Jimmy Carter and Pope Benedict XVI have come forward asking for a stay of execution. Artist Nellie McKay has written an original song to try to draw attention to the case. Dozens of other celebrities have appealed to the state of Georgia.
Despite the popular support, Davis’s last legal appeal was rejected Tuesday morning by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles.
The decision came after a federal judge who reviewed the witnesses’ changed testimony said they were not credible, and that Davis had not established his innocence.
The victim’s mother, Anneliese MacPhail, also says she continues to believe that Davis is guilty, and that death penalty opponents have taken up the case without looking at the facts.
But Chicago-based documentary filmmaker Rob Hess, who specializes in death penalty issues, says the court’s rejection — and the case as a whole — shows what’s “troubling about the death penalty.”
Hess thinks the case could have a lasting impact because of all the “questions that have come up” around Troy Davis, and because of the overriding feeling: “If only someone at that time knew what they knew now.”
Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorOfChange.org, a civil rights group running another campaign to stop Davis’ execution, also thinks the case shows what’s wrong with the U.S. justice system.
“This is such a visible case and so many people have spoken out because all along, they expected that the justice would step in and do the right thing,” says Robinson. “Hundreds of thousands of people expected ‘this is how the system works, he is supposed to be saved.’ We see that on legal dramas, reporters come in at the last minute and save someone on death row.”
But Troy Davis isn’t being saved, Robinson says, and that makes all the difference.
WATCH DAVIS SUPPORTERS RALLY IN ATLANTA: