Years of public appeals, pleas of innocence and international support have yet to prevent what may be Troy Davis' fate: Prison officials in Georgia have set the date of execution for Davis, one of the highest-profile inmates on the state's death row.
It is the fourth time in as many years that officials have set an execution date. This time the date is September 21.
Davis, convicted of the 1989 killing of an off-duty Savannah police officer, has steadfastly maintained his innocence. In the decades since his conviction, his case has become somewhat of a cause célèbre, with former President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and even Pope Benedict XVI, among others, urging the courts to grant Davis a new trial. Advocacy groups rallied. Letter-writing campaigns were launched.
Earlier this year the U.S. Supreme Court turned down what likely was Davis' last set of appeals. In 2009, Davis, by filing an original writ of habeas corpus to the Supreme Court, convinced the justices to order a federal court in Georgia to look into new evidence that he said would establish his innocence. By then, according to reports, several of the witnesses had recanted their earlier testimony that Davis had gunned down officer Mark MacPhail in a Burger King parking lot that night 20 years earlier.
The new hearing in June of 2010 gave Davis a chance to present new evidence that might help his case. He chose not to take the stand or call on witnesses who had given statements on his behalf.
Journalist Patrick Rodgers, who covered the trial for Connect Savannah, an alternative newspaper, wrote at the time:
[I]f the gauge of success was establishing clarity, the results were less than satisfactory. Even with all the preparation, when the hearing concluded, the facts seemed more obscured than ever –- twisted up by two days of contradictory testimonies that never really answered the only real question left. Who did it?
Judge William T. Moore Jr., the trial judge, concluded that Davis' evidence was "largely smoke and mirrors," according to a New York Times article from earlier this year. The Supreme Court refused to review Moore's ruling.
Fast-forward a year and a couple months, and again Davis stands at a crossroads, perhaps his last. If all goes as planned, Davis will be put to death at 7:00 pm, two Wednesdays from now.
It marks the fourth time since 2007 that state officials have set a date to execute Davis. The order comes after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the execution by refusing to overrule a federal judge who decided Davis failed to clear his name after getting a rare chance to prove his innocence.
Davis has become a focal point for anti-death penalty activists in the U.S. and abroad, attracting supporters including former President Jimmy Carter.