National News

Leaders convinced of Troy Davis’ innocence

By Errin Haines
Associated Press Writer | Last updated: Jun 25, 2009 - 10:23:45 AM

What's your opinion on this article?

JACKSON, Ga. (AP) - After meeting for nearly two hours with death row inmate Troy Davis, two Georgia congressmen and the president of the NAACP said they are convinced of his innocence and committed to saving his life.

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., speaks with the media after visiting with death row inmate Troy Anthony Davis, May 29, in Jackson, Ga. Troy Anthony Davis was convicted for the 1989 murder of Savannah, Ga., police officer Mark Allen MacPhail. AP Wide World Photo/Paul Abell
Congressmen John Lewis and Hank Johnson said they plan to return to Washington to pursue other legal means to resolving Mr. Davis' case, which is currently back in the U.S. Supreme Court on appeal. NAACP President Ben Jealous said the case is now a national priority for the organization.

“This case stands out,” Mr. Jealous said during a May 29 news conference after he met with Mr. Davis. “Something's wrong in Chatham County.”

Mr. Davis was convicted in the 1989 killing of Savannah, Ga., police officer Mark MacPhail but his guilt was put in question after several witnesses from his trial changed their testimony. Supporters are calling for a new trial for Mr. Davis, 40, who has been incarcerated for nearly two decades.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, consider the case closed and cast doubt on the new evidence. Former Savannah District Attorney Spencer Lawton has said the new testimony is “very difficult to believe” because it could have been manipulated.

Rep. Lewis said he has considered asking for a presidential pardon for Mr. Davis, but has not yet spoken to President Barack Obama about intervening in the case. Rep. Lewis said he plans to talk to the chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to discuss possible legislation related to Mr. Davis' case.

On May 22, two dozen congressmen—including Mr. Lewis and Mr. Johnson—sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder about Mr. Davis' case, asking him to “take any action, open any investigation or simply use the persuasion of your office to ensure that a grave injustice is not done in Georgia,” and said Mr. MacPhail's death “brought the ire and rage of a city that still bore the scars of segregation, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement.”

“One man cannot stand in the place of another to placate some generic cry for quick justice through abbreviated investigation,” reads the letter, which was also sent to Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisholm and Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker.

Mr. MacPhail, who was working off-duty as a security guard at a bus station, rushed to help a homeless man who had been pistol-whipped at a nearby parking lot. The 27-year-old was shot twice when he approached Mr. Davis and two other men. Witnesses identified Mr. Davis as the shooter in the 1991 trial. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

“There was a railroading of Troy Davis, but we got our own train now,” Rep. Johnson said. “The train is picking up momentum. We can't bring Officer MacPhail back, but we can prevent a diabolical injustice from taking place.”

Related links:

Final appeal made in Troy Davis case (FCN, 06-15-2009)

Fight of lifetime for Troy Davis (FCN, 11-04-2008)

The Innocence Project