Inmate to die tonight

Few options left for supporters; NAACP seeks Obama's help

 

 

ATLANTA — With legal appeals exhausted and clemency denied, death-penalty opponents are pinning their hopes on long-shot ways to stop Troy Davis’ execution. Among their prospects to stop the execution are a strike by prison workers, a change of heart by a prosecutor, and judicial or presidential involvement.

Davis lost his most realistic chance to avoid lethal injection Tuesday, when Georgia’s pardons board rejected his appeal for clemency. His execution is scheduled for 7 p.m. today.

State and federal courts repeatedly upheld his conviction for the 1989 murder of off-duty police officer in Savannah. Davis’ attorneys say he was convicted based on flawed testimony that has been largely recanted by witnesses.

As Davis’ attorneys considered filing another appeal, his supporters planned vigils and rallies around the world. Nearly 1 million signed a petition seeking clemency, according to Amnesty International.

Though all the last-ditch measures are unlikely, a presidential appeal to the parole board is the one avenue that has worked before. The NAACP is lobbying to get President Obama involved.

“The president is the president,” said Edward Dubose, the president of the NAACP’s Georgia chapter. “If he chose to intervene, he could.”

Though the president has no formal authority over state courts or state prisons, he could exercise his moral authority, said Donald E. Wilkes Jr., a professor at the University of Georgia law school. Previous presidents have been persuasive when they’ve asked governors to spare the life of an inmate, but Georgia’s governors don’t have that power.

The power of clemency rests solely with the Board of Pardons and Paroles, whose five members are appointed by the governor, making them politically immune to presidential arm-twisting.

“I don’t think it would be politically wise for him (Obama) to do it,” Wilkes said. “And there’s not much likelihood they would comply since they don’t have to.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked about the case Monday, but his vague answer suggested nothing is happening behind the scenes.

“As you know, the president has written that he believes the death penalty does little to deter crime but that some crimes merit the ultimate punishment,” Carney said. “Some of you may also recall that when the president was in the Illinois State Senate this was an issue where he worked across the aisle to find common ground.”

Carney said he hasn’t spoken to Obama about the Davis case.

Because Davis has lost all of his federal appeals, there are little legal grounds left.

Davis supporters are calling on Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisolm to block the execution, but the prosecutor said Tuesday that he’s powerless to stop an execution order issued by a state Superior Court judge.

Senate Democratic Whip Vincent Fort, of Atlanta, and Sara Totonchi, the executive director of the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights, called for a mass prison strike. That isn’t likely to prevent the execution because few workers are needed for one.

“Each and every one of you are human beings with the power to refuse and resist participation in an immoral execution of a man who may be innocent,” Fort and Totonchi said in a statement.

The Department of Corrections declined to comment, but the Attorney General’s Office listed sections in state law making it illegal for state employees to strike.

On Tuesday, Davis was spending his last quiet hours with friends, family and supporters, said Wende Gozan Brown, an Amnesty International staffer who visited him.

“He said he’s in good spirits, he’s prayerful and he’s at peace. But he said he will not stop fighting until he’s taken his last breath,” she said.

Associated Press reports were used in this article.

Troy Davis clemency denied

ON DEATH ROW:

See a database with information about the Georgia inmates currently on death row at chronicle.augusta.com/deathrowinmates.

 

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