Vatican Calls for Georgia to Spare Davis

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 26, 2005

ATLANTA – Citing a parade of witnesses who have since recanted, the Vatican joined supporters of a condemned and urged Georgia’s governor to commute his sentence.

Troy Anthony Davis had been scheduled to be executed Tuesday for the shooting death of an off-duty police officer, but he received a 90-day stay from the state Board of Pardons and Paroles.

The letter to Gov. Sonny Purdue from the Vatican Embassy in Washington arrived Monday, the same day the stay was granted.

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“In the name of Pope Benedict XVI, I am respectfully asking you to commute Troy’s sentence to life in prison without parole,” wrote Monsignor Martin Krebs, the office’s charge d’affaires.

Davis’ lawyers say seven witnesses at his trial have since recanted or contradicted their testimony. The Vatican, which has weighed in on some death penalty cases in the past, said Davis’ pending execution was “disturbing” given the doubts.

Davis, 38, was sentenced for the 1989 murder of Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail, who was shot while moonlighting as a security guard. Davis has said he was present at the scene of the officer’s shooting, but he has repeatedly denied any involvement in MacPhail’s death.

The 27-year-old officer was shot twice as he rushed to help a homeless man who had been assaulted.

Prosecutors argue that most of the witness affidavits, signed between 1996 and 2003, were included in Davis’ previous appeals and should not be considered as new evidence. They say Davis received a fair trial and has had plenty of appeals, all of which have failed.

The execution is on hold while the paroles board weighs the evidence presented as part of Davis’ request for clemency. The board must rule by Oct. 14.

Scheree Lipscomb, a spokeswoman for the board, said it has received thousands of letters from Davis supporters, including U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon, and it will treat the pope’s letter like all others. She said the board is aware of the letters, but its responsibility is to review the facts in the case.

“The board has to base its decision on facts,” Lipscomb said Friday.

A service of the Associated Press(AP)