By Walter C. Jones
September 20, 2011
ATLANTA – Death penalty opponents trying to stop Troy Davis’ execution aren’t being stymied by today’s decision by the Board of Pardons and Paroles to deny him clemency.
Instead, some of his supporters are calling on prison workers to strike and refuse to carry out court orders for the lethal injection scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday.
The board met for three hours Monday with Davis’ attorneys and supporters – including one juror who now regrets giving him a death sentence. After lunch, the five-member board spent another four hours hearing from prosecutors and the family of the off-duty Savannah policeman Davis is convicted of shooting to death, Mark MacPhail.
The board issued an unusual statement explaining it recognized the emotions involved and had not taken the responsibility lightly.
“Since 2000, the board has commuted three death-penalty cases. In considering clemency in such cases, the board weighs each case on its own merit,” the statement said. “They have considered the totality of the information presented in this case and thoroughly deliberated on it, after which the board’s decision was to deny clemency.”
Shortly after the parole board made its brief announcement by email, one came from Senate Democratic Whip Vincent Fort of Atlanta and Sara Totonchi, executive director of the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights.
“The courts and the parole board have failed to use their power to prevent this imminent miscarriage of justice,” the pair said. “However, Troy Davis’ execution cannot take place unless human beings at the Georgia Diagnostic & Classifications Prison make it happen. They can refuse to kill Troy Davis.”
They are calling for a general strike or “sick out” by all but a skeleton staff at the prison in Jackson that houses death row. They also issued personal challenges by name to the warden, deputy warden and one of the doctors reported to be hired to certify death after lethal injections.
“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,” the pair said. “We implore you to use this power.”
Amnesty International and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held a morning press conference at Ebenezer Baptist Church, less than a mile from the parole board offices. They called for Savannah District Attorney Larry Chisolm to request that Chatham County Superior Court Judge Penny House Freesemann vacate the death warrant, but they haven’t recently met with him to deliver their message.
The groups also plan a demonstration on the steps of the state Capitol and are asking sympathizers to wear black arm bands Wednesday with the message “not in my name.”
“It is unconscionable that the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has denied relief to Troy Davis,” said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International. “Allowing a man to be sent to death under an enormous cloud of doubt about his guilt is an outrageous affront to justice.”
Proponents of the death penalty didn’t let opponents hold center stage alone.
Jerry Luquire, president of the Georgia Christian Coalition, issued a statement in support of the clemency denial.
“In the murder of Mark MacPhail 21 years ago, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has made the only decision it could render if we are going to be governed by the rule of law. The board refused to substitute the emotions of those who disagree with the verdict with more than 20 years of legal decisions upholding the guilt and sentence of Anthony Davis,” he said.
For expanded coverage of the case, visit savannahnow.com/troydavis.