Man Convicted Of Killing Police Officer Seeks Clemency

Monday, July 16th 2007, 10:45 am
By: News On 6

ATLANTA (AP) _ The state Board of Pardons and Paroles met behind closed doors Monday to decide whether a convicted police killer who insists he is innocent should be given a reprieve or executed Tuesday as scheduled.

The hearing could be Troy Davis' best hope of avoiding lethal injection for the Aug. 19, 1989, murder of Savannah police Officer Mark MacPhail.

Davis, now 38, has said he was present at the scene of the officer's shooting, but he has repeatedly denied any involvement in MacPhail's death. The officer was shot twice as he rushed to help a homeless man who had been assaulted.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, an Atlanta Democrat and civil rights figure, was among those planning to support Davis in his clemency bid.

Davis' lawyers argue that they have been hindered over the years at getting courts to consider new evidence because of restraints in the law.

They say seven of nine witnesses who testified at his trial that they saw Davis shoot the officer, saw him assault the homeless man before the shooting or heard Davis later confess to the slaying have since recanted or contradicted their testimony.

Three other people who did not testify have also said in affidavits that another man, Sylvester Coles, later confessed to killing MacPhail, according to the defense. After the shooting, Coles had identified Davis as the killer.

The Associated Press has been unable to locate Coles for comment, and one of Davis' attorneys, Jason Ewart, has declined to say if he knows Coles' whereabouts.

Prosecutors argue that most of the witness affidavits, signed between 1996 and 2003, were included in Davis' previous appeals and should not be considered as new evidence. They say Coles received a fair trial and has had plenty of appeals, all of which have failed.

Parole board spokeswoman Scheree Lipscomb said Monday that several witnesses to the killing were at the hearing, though they were not on the list of planned speakers.

The board could decide to commute Davis' death sentence to life in prison or grant a stay of execution while it considers the issues, or it could let the execution proceed.

Another appeal was expected to be filed before the state Supreme Court on Monday following a Chatham County judge's refusal last week to halt Davis' execution.