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Activist Communique: Act right now to save Troy Davis, set to be executed tonight

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We need to move quickly on this one since Troy Davis is set to be executed TONIGHT at 7:00 p.m.

Here is a quick write-up of the major case points to get you abreast of the unfolding story -- it is unfolding minute and minute as people across the world rally to save Troy Davis from execution.

Davis was convicted of killing an off-duty Savanna police officer back in 1991. He has already faced three execution dates -- for which he received clemency -- and now faces another execution tonight if nothing is done.

Throughout the trial and his time spent on death row, Davis has maintained his innocence in a sensational case of an African American man allegedly killing a white police officer in the racialized southern U.S.

The background

Troy Davis was sentenced to death in the state of Georgia in a 1991 trial where he was found guilty by jury for killing Savanna police officer Mark MacPhail.

Since this point, Davis has spent the last two decades on death row for a crime he states and others claim he did not commit. He has faced three execution dates in the past, all which were stayed due to his insistence of innocence and new evidence brought forward. On September 20, 2010, Davis' last appeal for clemency was denied and he now faces execution tonight.

On August 19, 1989, officer MacPhail was working as a security guard at a Burger King when he intervened in an ongoing assaulted in a nearby parking lot. It is through this altercation that Davis was implicated in MacPhail's murder -- witnesses testified at the 1991 trail that they saw Davis shoot MacPhail or that Davis had later confessed to them of shooting MacPhail.

Although the murder weapon was not recovered, the prosecution presented ballistic tests which showed that the bullets that killed MacPhail came from the same gun used in another shooting, in which Davis was also convicted. Davis was convicted of murder and various lesser charges and sentenced to death in August 1991.

The issue of innocence

Davis has always maintained his innocence around the shooting death of MacPhail. In his defense, Davis maintains that while he was at the scene before the police officer was killed, he stepped away to assist another individual and was not present for the shooting.

There is no physical evidence to link Davis to the crime and no murder weapon was recovered at the scene. Despite this lack of evidence, the killing of a white police officer apparently by an African American man caused an uproar among the citizens of Georgia causing what his supporters maintain was a rush for justice in the racialized American South.

Police officers assigned 25 officers to the case and a media report reflecting the police sentiment at the time described, "There is a desire among the police to have a suspect locked away before MacPhail is buried."

While Sylvester Coles was first also considered a suspect, he went to police to finger Troy Davis in the shooting. Coles also admitted to police that he was carrying a .38 caliber weapon -- the same used in the killing -- a half an hour before MacPhail was shot.

The basis of Troy's conviction was on testimony of nine witnesses called to court for the trial; seven of which later recanted their story in affidavits and proceeding claiming duress. These new witnesses also implicated Coles in the crime, not Davis. Over the years this case has been through the courts, only Cole and one other of the original witness that has not recanted his testimony.

Regardless of the mounting evidence of Davis' innocence, his appeals for a new trial have all been denied in state and federal courts declaring that Davis had not provided a "substantive claim" of innocence and that the recantations were "unpersuasive," and thus not allowing new evidence to be heard.

This said, three prior executions -- July 2007, September 2008 and October 2008 -- against Davis have been stayed.

In 2010, Judge Moore ruled that executing an innocent person would violate the U.S. Eighth Amendment, but that Davis and his legal team had failed to demonstrate his innocence. In his decision, Moore wrote: "while Mr. Davis's new evidence casts some additional, minimal doubt on his conviction, it is largely smoke and mirrors."

In January 2011, Davis' legal team filed a new appeal with the United States Supreme Court, alleging that the 11th Circuit appellate panel had "evinced a clear hostility" during his August 2010 appeal, and again asking for a new trial. This appeal was rejected without comment by the Supreme Court in March 2011, setting the stage for a new execution date -- September 21, 2011, at 7:00 p.m., after Davis was denied clemency yesterday.

With all this mounting evidence regarding his innocence, Davis should not die tonight. He should be granted a new trial.

"The board stayed Davis' execution in 2007, stating that capital punishment was not an option when doubts about guilt remained," said Larry Cox, executive director for Amnesty International USA. "Since then two more execution dates have come and gone, and there is still little clarity, much less proof, that Davis committed any crime."

How you get involved RIGHT NOW to help save Troy Davis. Help save a life:

Call Judge Penny Freesemann at 1-(912) 652-7252 to save Troy Davis. She has the power to pull the death warrant. Execution is set for 7:00 p.m. TODAY. Email webmaster@pap.state.ga.us and 1-404-651-8502.

Follow #TroyDavis on Twitter for immediate shout-outs on how you can help.

Please see the following websites on how you can help:
http://www.troyanthonydavis.org/
http://www.nodeathpenalty.org/

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