NAACP begs for clemency before man is executed on Wednesday - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

NAACP begs for clemency before man is executed on Wednesday

By Laura Ann Sills - bioemail

COLUMBUS, GA (WXTX) - For the fourth time Troy Davis will prepare for his execution. In less than a week, he will be put to death for murdering Police Officer Mark MacPhail in Savannah in1989. 

Members of the NAACP and hundreds of others will march Friday night in Atlanta, asking for the Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant clemency to Troy Davis and save his life.

It all began with a fight over a beer in a Burger King parking lot. Sylvester "Redd" Coles was fighting with a homeless man about the beer when off-duty Police Officer Mark MacPhail, who was working security at the restaurant, stepped in.

Troy Davis and a friend met up with Coles in the parking lot. 

MacPhail was killed trying to help the homeless man, shot once in the chest and once in the face before he could draw his gun.

Eyewitnesses to the shooting say a man in a white shirt hit the homeless man and then killed the officer.

The next night Coles went to the police and said Davis shot the officer.

Davis was on the way to Atlanta with his sister at the time.

Posters went up for Davis's arrest, and racial tensions heightened in Savannah.

Georgia NAACP President Edward Dubose said, "When officer MacPhail was killed almost every black man was picked up and they told them, they did not ask them, they told them, you killed Officer MacPhail, didn't you."

At his trial in 1991, four witnesses said they saw Davis hit the homeless man and shoot MacPhail. Others said Davis admitted to the shooting.

After just hours, 7 black jurors and 5 white jurors found Davis guilty of murder, and sentenced him to death. Brenda Forrest was one of the jurors.  She said, "He was definitely guilty.  All of the witnesses were able to ID him as the person who actually did it."

Now, 7 of the 9 trial witnesses have recanted their statements. 

"If I knew then what I know now, Troy Davis would not be on death row. The verdict would have been not guilty," said Forrest.

Several of the witnesses says the police coerced them to testify, including Darrell Collins

Collins, a witness at Troy Davis' trial said, "I told them over and over that I didn't see this happen.  They put what they wanted to put in that statement."

Savannah Police have maintained that they were professional in all of their interviews.

A number of witnesses have signed affidavits changing their original testimony. Dorothy Ferrel writes, "I was scared that if I did not cooperate with the detective, then he might find a way to have me locked up again. So I told the detective that Troy Davis was the shooter, even though the truth was that I didn't see who shot the officer."

And, a witness named Jeffrey Sapp now writes, "The police came and talked to me and put a lot of pressure on me to say 'Troy did this.' They made it clear that the only way they would leave me alone is if I told them what they wanted to hear."

No physical evidence was taken from the scene. And, a murder weapon was never recovered.

Less than a week from Davis' execution, the NAACP and other anti-corporal punishment groups are saying there is too much doubt. They are gathering together in Atlanta asking the Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant clemency to Davis. 

President of the Georgia NAACP Edward Dubose has met with Davis twice since he has been on death row and believes he has a good chance for being granted clemency because there are 3 new members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles.  "We have three people in the Board of Pardons and Paroles who have never heard this case. They are now taking their time and looking at this case," said Dubose.

The NAACP's stance is that while 20 years ago this was a racial issue, now it is about justice. "We see officer MacPhail as a hero.  I do not want this to be construed that this officer was not out there doing the right thing. We honor officer MacPhail as a hero, but Troy cannot be used as a sacrificial lamb for his life being cut short, it just can't happen," said Dubose.

With hundreds of thousands of people disagreeing on the merits of the case, there will only be one man lying on that gurney waiting for the fatal injection of drugs - Troy Davis.

In a phone interview three years ago, Davis said, "I can take this time to be bitter or  try to make other people's lives a little better because we receive blessings when we forgive those who try to bring harm to us, we forgive those who hate us or do us wrong… and all these years God has kept me strong and gave me great endurance, you know, and I've received blessings from behind this wall.  You know, many other can't see that or might can't believe that… but, you know, God has kept me safe all these years, He kept my family in my life, He kept me in good health, you know, and my spirits are so high and it's not because of man, it's not because of anything, but you know god being in my life." 

Three years ago the Georgia Supreme Court denied an appeal by a four to three majority.

Georgia is one of the three states where a governor does not have the authority to grant clemency, although he retains indirect influence by virtue of his power to appoint board members.

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