ATLANTA (AP) - The stay of execution granted last week to Troy Davis -- who was convicted of killing a Savannah police officer but insists he is innocent -- could be short-lived if history is a guide.
The state Board of Pardons and Paroles has commuted eight death sentences out of 47 requests that have been decided since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, board records show.
The last commutation was granted in 2004 to Willie Hall, who was convicted of killing his wife, says attorney Don Samuel, who defended Hall. But Samuel says in that case, prosecutors did not oppose clemency.
A year after Hall's commutation, Samuel's clemency request for a man convicted of killing and dismembering an attorney was rejected. The man was put to death soon after. Samuel said the board doesn't often deal with claims of innocence. In both of his cases before the board, the guilt of the inmate was not in question.
The five-member board last week granted Davis a stay of execution of up to 90 days, after his lawyers argued that several witnesses had recanted or changed their testimony.
The stay means the execution, which had been set for the next day, will be on hold while the board weighs the evidence presented as part of Davis' request for clemency.