Troy Davis, the death row prisoner whose hotly-disputed case has become a touchstone in the debate surrounding capital punishment in America, was last night mounting a last-ditch effort to avoid execution.
The 42-year-old convicted murderer was scheduled to be killed by lethal injection shortly after 7pm, local time, at Georgia State Diagnostic Prison near the town of Jackson. But as the deadline passed, the US Supreme Court ordered a temporary delay to proceedings while they considered his final appeal.
That decision was expected to arrive in a matter of hours.
Earlier, on a dramatic day, the Georgia Superior Court and Georgia Supreme Court had both refused to issue a stay of execution, while prison authorities refused to let Davis take a polygraph test, and prevented his pastor, Rev Raphael Warnock, from visiting him for a final prayer.
Hundreds of supporters gathered outside the facility where he was due to be killed, and thousands attended prayer rallies in Atlanta. Onlookers described the public mood as increasingly angry as the seconds ticked down to his execution, and riot police were deployed on the streets.
The execution came 20 years after Davis was convicted of the murder of Mark Macphail, a 27-year-old police officer who was shot and wounded after intervening in a fight outside the store. He has always protested his innocence, and the case has been in and out of court ever since, with increasing doubts were cast on his guilt.
There was no physical evidence, blood samples, or DNA linking Davis to the crime and the murder weapon was never found. His conviction instead relied on witness statements from nine people, seven of whom have since recanted their evidence, saying they were coerced by police officers.
Several members of the jury have come forward to say that they reached the wrong verdict. Meanwhile, a further witness has said that another man, Sylvester Coles - who owned a gun similar to the one used to shoot MacPhail – had privately confessed to the murder. But their testimony has so far proven insufficient to overturn the original conviction.Reuse content