ATLANTA -- The Board of Pardons and Paroles began hearing from attorneys and family members of condemned murderer Troy Davis at 9 Monday morning as about 60 protesters demonstrated outside the building.
The five-member board is the last hope for Davis and his supporters since multiple appeals have exhausted his legal options. The board, though, isn’t bound by the precedent or the procedures of the courts and can base its decision on whatever it chooses.
Davis, scheduled for execution Wednesday night, was convicted of killing off-duty Savannah policeman Mark MacPhail, but in the 20 years since, seven of the nine eyewitnesses who testified against him have reportedly backed away from part of their testimony, according to groups opposed to capital punishment.
Those opposition groups see the doubts surrounding his case as an opportunity to convince not just the parole board but also the public to halt his execution and all others.
“I think we’re changing some minds,” said Mary Catherine Johnson of Georgians For Alternatives to the Death Penalty. “I think people are looking at this case and beginning to get interested in other cases as well.”
Johnson, like most of the protesters, took time off from work or school to pray, hold banners and chant.
“I have a very understanding boss. She know this is important to me,” she said.
Savannah Williams heard about the Davis case while she was at Troy State University three years ago when someone handed her a flyer. It did awaken her awareness to other death-penalty cases, she said, although his case is especially bothersome for her because of the circumstances.
“I don’t believe in killing this young boy,” she said.
Cars along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue honked as the protesters waved signs and chanted “Hey up, come testify. Please don’t let Troy Davis die;” and “They say, ‘death row;’ we say, ‘hell no.’”
Meanwhile, on the fifth floor of a nondescript state office building behind them, the parole board devotes hours to hearing Davis’ lawyers, a box of Kleenex sitting on a bench nearby. The defense team prepared for a multi-media defense, beginning with a side reading “If Only We Could Rewind the Tape: The limitations and Distortions of Eyewitness Testimony.”
Even though the board has denied past clemency appeals for Davis, three of the five members have joined the board since the last one.
The board meets behind closed doors, only allowing journalists into the room before the meeting long enough for photos. It holds separate meetings with prosecutors and victims’ families and doesn’t disclose when to prevent reporters from staking out the room to snag interviews as they leave.
Typically, the appointments with each side lasts two to three hours. The board will issue its decision by press release, declining interview requests and usually offering no explanation.
The decision could come today or Tuesday, but it could come as late as moments before the 7 p.m. schedule for Davis to receive a lethal injection.