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Georgia inmate loses last-ditch appeal for clemency

by Jorge Hernandez on September 20, 2011

A Georgia death row inmate, who many believe is innocent, lost what could be his last chance at clemency on Tuesday. The state's pardons board rejected a plea to spare Troy Davis' life despite the fact many have raised doubts about his guilt, the Associated Press reports.

Davis is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection on Wednesday for the 1989 killing of police officer Mark MacPhail, who was shot while trying to stop a homeless man from being assaulted. Much of the evidence presented at the 1991 trial was based on the testimony of witnesses, but several of them have since recanted their story and others have said that another man is responsible for the death.

The questions surrounding Davis' conviction led to a June 2010 hearing in front of a federal judge where his lawyers asked for a new trial, but the judge denied the request and the U.S. Supreme Court would not review the case.

For the family of MacPhail, the decision by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles marked a long-awaited closure on the case. However, many feel the board's decision is wrong. Big names like President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI and former FBI director William Sessions have all been in support of clemency on behalf of Davis.

"The death penalty should not be exercised where doubt exists about the guilt of the accused. The Board did not follow that standard here," defense attorney Jason Ewart told the AP.

The case somewhat mirrors a similar one in Texas, where Duane E. Buck was spared the death penalty temporarily after the Supreme Court raised questions about a racially-tinged testimony where a psychologist said black people were more likely to be dangerous, The New York Times reports.

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