Update 11:30 P.M. ET: Troy Davis was executed at 11:08 p.m. after the Supreme Court rejected a last-minute stay of execution.
12:00 P.M. ET Sept. 21, 2011 | NASHVILLE (UMNS)
Opponents to the death penalty from around the world have rallied in support of clemency for Troy Davis. A web-only photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
Troy Davis, an inmate at a state prison in Jackson, Ga., is on deathwatch and set to be executed at 7 p.m. EDT despite an international effort to grant him clemency.
Davis was sentenced to death for the 1989 murder of Mark MacPhail, a Savannah police officer who was working off duty as a security guard. Since Davis' conviction, seven of the nine prosecution witnesses have either changed or recanted their testimony. No murder weapon or physical evidence connected Davis to the shooting, but a number of witnesses said they saw Davis shoot MacPhail while two others said Davis confessed to the killing.
The Sept. 21 date is the fourth time the state has tried to execute Davis. The decision is a “tragedy,” said the Rev. Will Zant, pastor of North Spring United Methodist Church in Atlanta.
A web-only photo courtesy of Amnesty International.
Zant and another Atlanta pastor, the Rev. Dave Grady of Druid Hills United Methodist Church, were among the crowd in a vigil Sept. 19 outside the federal building where the parole board was meeting. The board decided not to grant clemency.
“When I left (Monday), people were feeling quietly and cautiously optimistic that maybe clemency would be granted,” Grady said. “I am drafting a letter right now to the chair of the state board of pardons and paroles asking that there be reconsideration.”
Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty are asking people to remain vigilant and make calls to the parole board and Chatham County district attorneys, as well as the medical group that assists with the execution.
Grady said the evidence that has come out since Davis’ conviction sheds enough light to stop the execution, as his guilt is not “beyond a shadow of a doubt.”
United Methodists have been working to get the death penalty abolished worldwide since they first adopted a resolution at the 1956 Methodist General Conference officially stating the church’s opposition to the death penalty. General Conference is the denomination’s top legislative gathering that meets every four years to consider changes to church law and to take positions on theological and social issues related to the church’s work around the globe.
Another vigil was held at the state capital Sept. 20, and if the execution goes as planned, there will be another vigil on Sept. 21 at the capital and outside the gates of the prison, Grady said. Zant said the vigils are times of prayer over the parole board’s decision.
“I grieve this decision, and I think it is a tragedy,” Zant said. “I will be in prayer for the Davis and MacPhail families. When we become Christians, we accept the responsibility to pursue more peaceful societies. Jesus taught us to pray for that peaceful kingdom.”
*Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for the young adult content team at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.