A crowd of several hundred protesters sits on the ground Wednesday at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta to protest the execution of Troy Anthony Davis.
JACKSON — Georgia inmate Troy Davis has been executed for the killing of an off-duty police officer in a case that has drawn worldwide support over his claims of innocence. Courts consistently ruled against him, however, and members of the officer’s family say they finally have justice after 22 years.
The Supreme Court rejected an eleventh-hour appeal from Davis to prevent Georgia authorities from executing him for the murder of an off-duty police officer.
The court did not comment on its order late Wednesday, four hours after receiving the last-ditch request.
The filing by Davis’ lawyers came after state officials refused to grant Davis a reprieve in the face of calls for clemency from former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI and others.
The high court previously granted Davis a stay of execution in 2008 and ordered a court hearing the following year to give Davis a chance to establish his innocence. A federal judge said Davis failed to do so, and the justices refused to review that finding.
Large protests in support of Georgia death row inmate Davis sprung up from the state Capitol to the White House on Wednesday, as the hour of his execution neared pending a final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
After four years of legal battles, Wednesday appeared to be the last chance for Davis’ supporters to rally in an effort to spare his life. They huddled at vigils, chanted at demonstrations and hoisted placards proclaiming his innocence in the 1989 slaying of off-duty Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail.
The largest of the gatherings appeared to be outside the state prison in Jackson, home to Georgia’s death row, where preparations were under way for his execution by lethal injection. The U.S. Supreme Court was considering a final effort to halt the execution.
Davis’ family arrived at the prison to cheers from the crowd of supporters. The family held hands with backers and prayed with them as a police helicopter hovered overhead.
With the crowd swelling to more than 500 protesters, authorities dispatched several dozen police in riot gear to keep a watchful eye. A small crowd of MacPhail supporters was also on hand, including Dawn Dalton, who said her old childhood friend died a hero.
“Twenty-two years is a long time,” Dalton said. “We’re here to support him, and I’m here to support the family.”
At the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, where justices were weighing Davis’ fate Wednesday night, protesters outside chanted, “They say death row; we say hell no.”
In Atlanta, a crowd of several hundred people gathered near the steps of the Georgia Capitol.
“I think it’s an outrage. They’re about to kill an innocent man,” said David Ferguson, 56, of Atlanta.
Billy Moore, who spent years on death row in Georgia before his sentence was commuted, said there should be reconsideration in Davis’ case.
“In this case, there is so much doubt and our Constitution says no one should be convicted if there is any doubt,” Moore said. “Well, there is doubt in this case. We’ve waited 20 years. What is another year? What does it matter in time if you are trying to find the truth?”
Demonstrations happened as far away as Paris, where some 150 people gathered to voice their support for Davis. In Washington, D.C., dozens of protesters rallied outside the White House, many from historically black Howard University, in hopes of last-minute intervention from President Obama. At least 12 protestors were arrested, police said.
Davis, 42, has insisted he’s innocent and his pending execution was stopped three times since 2007. The courts repeatedly upheld his conviction. In the process, Davis gained thousands of supporters worldwide.
In Savannah, where Davis was sentenced to die, a small crowd of 25 people stood outside City Hall Wednesday night carrying placards opposing the death penalty. Earlier in the day, 16 Davis supporters delivered three boxes of petitions to District Attorney Larry Chisolm, saying they had 240,000 signatures supporting clemency for Davis.
The Rev. Al Sharpton was among the civil rights leaders who rallied supporters at the prison in Jackson.
“I feel a mixture of outrage and sadness, sadness because we may lose a life of someone who’s not been proven to be guilty,” Sharpton said.
Rashaan Sharif, 62, lives in metro Atlanta and only recently heard about the case on the radio. When he heard Davis supporters would be rallying outside the prison in solidarity, he decided to join them.
“I took off from work and I’m losing a day’s pay, but it’s a worthy cause,” he said. “It’s definitely a worthy cause. People need to stand up for truth and justice.”
A small group of MacPhail family supporters also gathered at the prison.
Janet Reisenwitz has family members who are police officers, and she said she was surprised more didn’t show up. She said she was there because “justice will be served tonight.”
“They are grasping for straws and I would be too,” the 55-year-old said of Davis supporters. “But all it does is delay justice and clog up the criminal justice system.”
Outside the White House, protesters paused for a moment of silence, lifting their fists in the air and singing and cheering as fellow protesters were arrested.
“The fact that the White House hasn’t addressed this issue is completely disrespectful,” said Talibah Arnett, 20, a Howard junior.
Cassandra Bowler, 21, another Howard student said the protest was about more than Troy Davis.
“This fight is about the death penalty in 21st century America,” Bowler said.
In Europe, where plans to execute Davis have drawn widespread criticism, lawmakers and activists made a last-minute appeal to Georgia officials to spare the inmate.
Renate Wohlwend of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly noted doubts raised about Davis’ conviction. She said that “to carry out this irrevocable act now would be a terrible mistake which could lead to a tragic injustice.”