After a media storm of debate and protest, the state of Georgia executed Troy Davis Wednesday night by lethal injection. Davis was sentenced to capital punishment for the 1989 murder of an off-duty cop. Since his conviction, seven out of the nine prosecutorial witnesses recanted some or all of their testimony, leading many activists to believe there was enough reasonable doubt to remove Davis from death row. Furthermore, the 1991 trial was marked with irregularities, and Davis was convicted on meager physical evidence. Davis's execution was delayed three times—in 2007 when he was granted a stay; in 2008 when the U. S. Supreme Court intervened but then passed the case on to a lower court rather than hearing it itself; and Wednesday, when the 7 p.m execution was pushed back three hours for Supreme Court review one last time.
Hundreds of people protested outside the jail, more than half a million signed petitions, and prominent figures—from former President Jimmy Carter to pop star Cee Lo Green—called for Davis' pardon. But Tuesday the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Parole denied Davis clemency even when he offered to take a polygraph test. His execution and the surrounding furor came only three weeks after the MSNBC/Politco GOP debate, when, to the cheers of audience members, Gov. Rick Perry claimed to have never lost any sleep over the 234 people executed in Texas under his watch. So far in the 2012 presidential campaign, social issues have taken a back seat to the economy and national debt. Yet Davis's contested execution along with front-runner Perry's tough record on capital punishment may bring the death penalty back to the forefront.
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