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Davis' Execution Continues to Inspire Death Penalty Activists

Barrington M. Salmon | , WI Staff Writer | 10/3/2012, 1:06 p.m.

It has been a year since Georgia resident Troy Anthony Davis was put to death by lethal injection for killing Savannah Ga., police officer Mark MacPhail.

From the time he was arrested until he uttered his final words, Davis, 42, proclaimed his innocence. He was put to death despite massive protests in the U.S. and around the world, and despite supporters signing and delivering one million signatures to clemency officials asking them not to execute him because of what appeared to be a preponderance of doubt about his guilt.

But at a modest ceremony on Sept. 20 in downtown D.C. marking the one year anniversary of his death, Davis supporters and a member of his family continued to adamantly proclaim his innocence.

"I'm still standing on Troy's innocence ... we have faith. Hebrews 11:1 talks about evidence of things not seen," said his sister Kimberly Davis. "We don't have anything to hold our heads down for. They wanted someone to be an example to show Georgia was in control. There is evidence of police misconduct, prosecutorial misconduct - so much evidence is still coming out that shows he wasn't the one who killed the police officer. [My sister] Martina was a warrior and a true warrior. She told me to keep up the fight. We'll do this one day at a time."

Suzanne Nossel spoke of her organization's resolve to keep up the fight against the death penalty and to continue to honor Davis' sacrifice.

"Troy Davis provided a human lens to look at the hard question about what [the death penalty] is and what it means," said Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International USA. "The case caused people to wake up and take a harder look."

Nossel said the death penalty has the lowest public support in 40 years, precisely because of that scrutiny. She added that it has been abolished in Connecticut, has been put on moratorium in several states and elected officials are reconsidering their public position on the issue.

Amnesty International remains focused on working on individual death penalty cases and raising the awareness of the next generation, and pressing officials to take action on individual cases.

Brian Evans, a campaigner for Amnesty International USA's Death Penalty Abolition Campaign crystallized the broad concerns those familiar with the Davis case couldn't shake.

He said there are so many egregious wrongs in the case that people felt impelled to come out against his execution.

"The doubts about the case are so obvious," he said during a 2011 interview. "There was no murder weapon and no DNA evidence linking Troy to the crime and witnesses were coerced. Seven of the nine people who testified against him have recanted, yet the legal system has been unable to stop this. The doubts at the time of the trial are the same today."

"Troy was fingered by this other guy and they planted his picture all over television, then they asked witnesses to identify him. They shouldn't be carrying out this execution. After 22 years of appeals, the machinery of the criminal justice system moves slowly - the institution of death has a life of its own."