Troy Davis, facing execution, seeks polygraph
Troy Anthony Davis enters Chatham County Superior Court Aug. 22, 1991, in Savannah, Ga., during his trial in the shooting death of off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail. / AP
ATLANTA - A condemned Georgia inmate who has drawn supporters from an ex-president to the pope is set to be executed Wednesday after he lost what had been his most realistic chance at avoiding lethal injection.
Troy Davis was left with little to do Tuesday but wait to be executed for a murder he insists he did not commit after Georgia's pardons board rejected his appeal for clemency. As his scheduled 7 p.m. Wednesday execution neared, his backers resorted to far-fetched measures. They asked prisons officials to let him take a polygraph test; urged prison workers to strike or call in sick; asked prosecutors to block the execution and they even considered a desperate appeal for White House intervention.
CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen described the denial of clemency as "routine."
"Parole boards almost never grant clemency, so this is not a surprise," Cohen said. "Now if Wednesday's execution is going to be halted it's going to have to come from the federal courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court in particular, which last week halted a Texas execution."
Davis has gotten support from hundreds of thousands of people, including a former FBI director, former President Jimmy Carter and Pope Benedict XVI, and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling gave him an unusual opportunity to prove his innocence last year. State and federal courts, however, repeatedly upheld his conviction for the 1989 killing of Mark MacPhail, an off-duty police officer who was working as a security guard in Savannah when he was shot dead rushing to help a homeless man who was being attacked.Davis' attorneys say he was convicted based on flawed testimony that has been largely recanted by witnesses, but prosecutors and MacPhail's relatives say they have no doubt the right man is being punished. (At left, watch a "CBS Evening News" report on efforts to exonerate Davis)
"Justice was finally served for my father," said Mark MacPhail Jr., who was an infant when his father was gunned down. "The truth was finally heard."
As Davis' attorneys considered filing another appeal, his supporters planned vigils and rallies around the world. Nearly 1 million people signed a petition seeking clemency, according to Amnesty International.
"We've been praying about it and with God on our side anything can happen," DeJaun Correia-Davis, the condemned man's 17-year-old nephew, told a rally of hundreds in front of the Georgia Capitol late Tuesday. "Let this be a case that not only highlights the death penalty but will hopefully be a big part in bringing it to an end."
Later Tuesday, Davis attorney Stephen Marsh told The Associated Press they had asked state prison officials and the pardons board to allow Davis to take a polygraph test.
Marsh hopes the pardons board will agree to consider results of the test. The machines aren't reliable measures of guilt but they "may tell you something about innocence," he said.
A prisons spokeswoman said she was unaware of the request and the pardons board didn't immediately respond.
Georgia initially planned to execute Davis in July 2007, but the pardons board granted him a stay less than 24 hours before he was to die. The U.S. Supreme Court stepped in a year later and halted the lethal injection just two hours before he was to be executed. And a federal appeals court halted another planned execution a few months later.
This time, state officials are confident this lethal injection will be carried out. Georgia's governor does not have the power to grant condemned inmates clemency. Davis supporters are calling on Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisolm to block the execution. But the prosecutor said in a statement Tuesday he's powerless to withdraw an execution order for Davis issued by a state Superior Court judge.
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