Another 11th-hour stay for US death row inmate Troy Davis
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Troy Davis, a black American who has spent 17 years on death row for the murder of a white policeman, was Friday granted a stay of execution, three days before he was due to be put to death, court documents showed.
"Upon our thorough review of the record, we conclude that Davis has met the burden for a provisional stay of execution," said the decision taken by three judges sitting on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in the southern state of Georgia, a copy of which was sent to AFP.
Davis, 40, was scheduled to die Monday at 7 pm (2300 GMT) by lethal injection for the 1989 killing of 27-year-old white policeman Mark Allan MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia.
He has repeatedly claimed he did not kill McPhail and seven out of nine witnesses who gave evidence at his trial in 1991 have recanted or changed their testimony, which was the backbone of the prosecution's case in the absence of a murder weapon, fingerprints and DNA.
Other witnesses have since identified another man as the shooter -- a state's witness who testified against Davis.
The appeals court on Friday gave Davis' lawyers 15 days to file documents with the court, supporting defense claims that Davis is being wrongfully held in prison.
The court will then have 10 days to decide if the case of the long-time deathrow inmate should go back before a lower court, which could order a new trial.
Friday's stay of execution "means there will be more litigation, but not necessarily a new trial," which Davis, his lawyers and supporters have been pressing for, Sara Totonchi head of Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, told AFP.
The stay announced Friday was the third for Davis, who was originally sentenced to die in July last year, only to be granted a last-minute stay of execution then by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole.
Last month, the same parole board denied Davis clemency, putting him back on the path to execution.
Then, with less than two hours to go before he was due to die on September 23, the US Supreme Court granted him his second stay of execution.
"I can't imagine the emotional roller coaster Troy Davis is going through," Sara, who is also head of Davis' support committee, told AFP Friday.
Davis' case has triggered an international outcry as well as support rallies and petitions in Georgia.
A petition signed by 140,000 people was delivered to the Georgia parole board on Friday, hours before the stay of execution was announced.
The French presidency of the European Union, whose 27 member states oppose the use of capital punishment anywhere in the world, appealed Wednesday for Davis's death sentence to be commuted.
Former US president Jimmy Carter, Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu of South Africa and Pope Benedict XVI have also spoken out against the execution.
Rights group Amnesty International hailed the decision to grant Davis yet another stay of execution, but slammed the US judicial system for overlooking issues that could prove the inmate's innocence.
"Until this point, the compelling issues in this case have been virtually ignored, leaving Georgia vulnerable to the possibility of killing an innocent man," Amnesty International USA said in a statement.
Last month, Amnesty accused the state of Georgia of "trying to ram through" Davis' execution.
A pardon from the state would spare Davis' life.