The US state of Georgia should grant clemency to death row inmate Troy Davis Amnesty International said today, after his execution was set to take place on 21 September.
Troy Davis was convicted in 1991 of the 1989 murder of a Savannah police officer. The case against him rested on witness testimony. Since his trial, seven of nine key witnesses have recanted or changed their testimony, some alleging police coercion.
Davis now faces his fourth execution date in four years.
In 2007, he was less than 24 hours from execution when the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles said it would not allow an execution to go ahead “unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused”.
"Given the doubts that persist in this case, the Board cannot in good conscience allow this execution to go ahead," said Amnesty International's USA researcher Rob Freer.
"While we oppose all executions whatever the state's case, even ardent proponents of this irrevocable punishment should be troubled by the state of the evidence against Troy Davis."
After a federal hearing last year, ordered by the US Supreme Court, District Court Judge William Moore ruled that Troy Davis had failed to show "by clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable juror would have convicted him in the light of the new evidence" to emerge since his 1991 trial.
Judge Moore concluded that "Mr Davis is not innocent" under this "extraordinarily high standard", although acknowledging that the new evidence cast "some additional, minimal" doubt on the conviction.
The US Supreme Court dismissed Davis' appeal on 28 March 2011 and on 6 September a county judge in Georgia signed the death warrant, authorizing the state to execute Troy Davis between 21 and 28 September.
On 7 September, the Commissioner of Corrections set the execution for 7pm on 21 September at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson.
Since Troy Davis has been on death row, more than 90 prisoners have been released from death rows around the USA on grounds of innocence. In each case, at trial the defendant had been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
In the past four years, three states in the USA – New Jersey, New Mexico and Illinois – have legislated to abolish the death penalty.
When signing the abolitionist bills into law the three state governors all pointed to the risk of irrevocable error as a reason to support abolition.