Court issues stay of execution for Troy Davis
By BILL RANKIN, RHONDA COOK
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Friday, October 24, 2008
The federal appeals court in Atlanta on Friday stayed the execution of Troy Anthony Davis, who was scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection Monday evening.
“Upon our thorough review of the record, we conclude that Davis has met the burden for a stay of execution,” the court said in a ruling issued by Judges Joel Dubina, Rosemary Barkett and Stanley Marcus.
The ruling is only the latest in what has been a roller-coaster ride of appeals for Davis. It marks the third time in 16 months he has won a stay shortly before his scheduled execution.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would not hear Davis’ most recent appeal.
Davis, 40, sits on death row for the Aug. 19, 1989, murder of 27-year-old Savannah police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail. Since Davis’ trial, seven of nine key prosecution witnesses have recanted their testimony.
Davis’ claims of innocence have drawn opposition to his execution from leaders across the globe, including former President Jimmy Carter and Pope Benedict XVI. The European Union this week called for a halt to Davis’ execution.
Martina Correia, Davis’ sister, said she and her mother, Virginia Davis, were packing for the trip to death-row in Jackson when they got the news.
“I’ve been praying,” Correia said. “He deserves to be free. He at least doesn’t deserve to die for something he didn’t do.”
Correia talked on the phone to Davis after the court issued its stay. “To all the people around the world working hard and fighting for him, he wants to say thank you and this fight has to continue,” she said.
Neither MacPhail’s mother or sister had heard the news when a reporter called. The officer’s 75-year-old mother, Anneliese, declined to comment until she had more information.
MacPhail’s sister, Kathy McQuary, cried.
Davis’ lawyers expressed relief over the court’s decision.
“This is the first step toward a court hearing to consider the new evidence â€” something we have been asking for for almost a decade now,” attorney Jason Ewart said.
Russ Willard with the state Attorney General’s Office said the office had told the Department of Corrections that the execution was off for Monday. In the meantime, he said, state attorneys are reviewing the court’s order and exploring the their options.
Earlier this week, Davis asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for permission to pursue another round of litigation in federal court on claims he is innocent. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 requires such a request to be made to an appeals court before another federal habeas corpus lawsuit can be filed.
On Friday, 11th Circuit said the stay of execution is conditional. Davis must make a showing he can meet the “stringent requirements” to pursue another round of appeals, the decision said.
The court directed Davis’ lawyers to file a legal brief on their arguments within 15 days. The state Attorney General’s Office has another 10 days to respond.
In July 2007, the state Board of Pardons and Paroles issued a stay less than 24 hours before Davis was to be put to death. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court stopped Davis’ execution less than two hours before he was to be executed by lethal injection.