Who is Troy Davis? That seems to be the question of the day as he has become a worldwide trending topic. The man behind the mystery is a 42-year-old death row inmate who was convicted of killing Mark MacPhail, an off-duty police officer, in 1989. He is set to die at 7 p.m. this evening, September 21, by lethal injection.
But why the controversy surrounding his execution?
Many believe he is innocent and that he had an unfair trial, largely because the majority of the prosecuting witnesses have come forth with new testimonies, saying the police coerced them to testify against Davis in court.
The Troy Davis Story
- August 19, 1989: MacPhail, who is off-duty, is shot and killed while investigating a disturbance in Savannah, Georgia.
- August 23, 1989: Upon returning home from a trip to Atlanta, Davis surrenders to the police.
- The murder weapon was never recovered, though ballistic tests showed that the bullets that killed MacPhail came from a gun used in a shooting for which Davis was also convicted.
- August 1991: Troy Davis is sentenced to death, but maintains his innocence. Nine eyewitnesses claim to have either seen Davis murder MacPhail or heard his confession.
- Controversy: Racial composition of the jury has led some to claim that Davis did not have a fair trial. Additionally, seven of the nine eyewitnesses have officially changed their stories since the trial, several of whom indicated that they felt some degree of pressure from the police to testify as they did originally. Other witnesses since that time have provided information that would implicate Sylvester “Redd” Coles, but all appeals have been denied.
- July 2007, September 2008, October 2008: Troy Davis is scheduled for execution, but each one is stayed.
- August 2009: The U.S. Supreme Court orders a federal District court in Georgia to consider whether there is any new evidence that couldn’t have been provided in the 1991 trial and might prove Davis’ innocence.
- June 2010: An evidentiary hearing is held. Several of the prosecution witnesses change their testimonies, citing coercion from the police in 1991 to testify as they originally did. Though it was thrown out as hearsay because Sylvester “Redd” Coles was not subpoenaed and therefore could not comment, some witnesses also claimed to have heard him confess to MacPhail’s murder.
- August 2010: The Court upholds the conviction. All appeals to the Supreme Court since have been rejected. Execution is scheduled for September 21, 2011.
- September 19, 2011: A clemency hearing is scheduled with the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles.
- September 20, 2011: Troy Davis is denied clemency. Execution is scheduled for September 21.