Davis, who was convicted in 1991 for the Aug. 19, 1989 shooting death of MacPhail, was pronounced dead at 11:08 p.m.
Davis' execution came at the end of a day of desperate appeals by his attorneys, all of which were rejected. Davis had previously exhausted all of his legal appeals when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his last effort on March 28.
Last-Minute Appeals Rejected
When the day began, his attorneys attempted to have Davis take a polygraph test to "prove his innocence," but the Department of Corrections would not allow the death row inmate's final day routine to be interrupted.
The Georgia Board of Pardon and Paroles, which denied Davis clemency for the second time on Tuesday, today told his attorneys they would not consider any further appeals.
Late in the afternoon, Butts County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wilson declined to issue a stay, rejecting Davis' last-minute effort to halt his execution. The state Attorney General opposed the stay, saying it was only a delaying tactic since all of Davis' appeals had been exhausted.
Then the Georgia State Supreme Court voted unanimously to reject the Davis appeal. As the scheduled 7 p.m. execution time approached, prison officials delayed proceedings to await a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.
After a delay of more than three hours, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order denying Davis' appeal for a stay of execution.
Thousands Deceived by 'Smoke and Mirrors'
Thousands of Troy Davis supporters opposed his execution because they believe the reports that seven of nine state witnesses at his 1991 trial have since recanted their testimony. Those supporters, and the journalists who have blindly repeated those claims, might be enlightened by reading the actual court record of the case and the details of those so-called recantations.
On Aug. 24, 2010, U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr. issued a 172-page ruling after earlier conducting an extraordinary hearing in federal court to receive testimony and make findings of fact as to Davis' actual innocence, a hearing ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Entire Case Record Reviewed
In his 172-page report, Judge Moore reviewed the entire 20-year case record - from the initial police interviews with witnesses, to the testimony of those witnesses at the 1991 trial and finally the statements of those witnesses at the 2010 hearing in federal district court.
Judge Moore painstakingly compared the so-called recantation testimony of the seven witnesses with their previous statements to police and in court and to the testimony from other credible witnesses.
Those who read the full court report will get a better understanding why Judge Moore called Davis' claim of innocence "smoke and mirrors." Judge Moore said the claim that seven witnesses had recanted their testimony "vastly overstates" the actual evidence presented at the hearing.
Summary of the So-Called Recantations
According to Judge Moore's summary of the evidence:
- Two of the recanting witnesses neither directly state that they lied at trial nor claim that their previous testimony was coerced.
- Two other recantations were impossible to believe, with a host of intrinsic reasons why they could not be trusted, and the recantations were contradicted by credible, live testimony.
- Two more recantations were intentionally and suspiciously offered in affidavit form rather than as live testimony, blocking any meaningful cross-examination by the state or credibility determination by this Court.
- While these latter two recantations are not totally valueless, Judge Moore wrote, their import is greatly diminished by the suspicious way in which they were offered and the live, contrary testimony.
Judge Moore did rule that one of the recantations was credible - that of jailhouse snitch Kevin McQueen, who admitted that his testimony at Davis' trial was "complete fabrication."
But Judge Moore said, McQueen's testimony at trial was so patently false and filled with inconsistencies with other witnesses in the case it is "hard to believe" his testimony was important to the conviction.
Therefore, Judge Moore said although McQueen's recantation was credible, it was of limited value.
Forgotten Memories, Partial Changes
Two of the so-called recantations were not recantations at all, but witnesses saying 20 years later they no longer recall all of the details of the night officer MacPhail was shot.
Some of the recantations were only partial recantations, in which the witnesses changed minor details, but those details were contrary to other credible, live witnesses.
Two of the recantations were given by close friends of Davis who were obviously lying to help their friend, Judge Moore ruled, because their original statements were backed up by "an overwhelming body of evidence."
Not Credible Recantations
Judge Moore said two of the witnesses were waiting right outside the hearing and could have been called to testify live, but Davis did not call them, Moore said, because they would not have stood up under cross examination. He offered their affidavits instead, which do not carry the weight of live, cross-examinable testimony.
Finally, Judge Moore ruled that "four of Davis's recantations do not diminish the State's case because a reasonable juror would disregard the recantation, not the earlier testimony; and the three others only minimally diminish the State's case."
Could Have Called Red Coles
At the hearing, Davis claimed that it was Sylvester "Red" Coles who shot MacPhail and he presented witnesses that said Coles had confessed to the crime. But under the hearing rules, the burden of proof was on Davis to prove Coles was guilty, unlike in a regular criminal trial where the state has the burden.
Judge Moore said Davis could have called Coles as a witness to ask him about his confessions and about the events of Aug. 19, 1989. But Davis did not attempt to subpoena prior to the close of the hearing.
Judge Moore wrote: "... the Court would have ordered the United States Marshall Service to serve Mr. Coles. Davis never made such a request, instead choosing to attempt selfservice at the eleventh hour. His half-hearted efforts belie his true intentions: to be able to say that he "attempted" to provide Mr. Coles' testimony when, in fact, he never intended to do so."
Reasonable Jurors Would Still Convict
In his ruling, Judge Moore said he believed the jury would not have been persuaded by any of the evidence presented by Davis at the federal hearing.
"After careful consideration and an in-depth review of 20 years of evidence, the Court is left with the firm conviction that while the State's case may not be ironclad, most reasonable jurors would again vote to convict Davis of Officer MacPhail's murder," he wrote.
"A federal court simply cannot interpose itself and set aside the jury verdict in this case absent a truly persuasive showing of innocence," he said. "To act contrarily would wreck complete havoc on the criminal justice system."
Davis is not innocent, Judge Moore concluded.
Photo: Savannah Police Dept.