September 20th, 2011
10:22 AM ET

Toobin: Troy Davis could be 'out of options' after clemency denied

Editor's note: Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's senior legal analyst, offered his immediate reaction Tuesday to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole's decision to deny clemency to death row inmate Troy Davis.

The creativity of defense attorneys aside, convicted police killer Troy Davis appears "out of options," Toobin said.

Davis' attorneys pleaded with the board, telling it that seven of nine witnesses who testified against their client had recanted or changed their testimony. The board also heard the defense assert that witnesses have come forward to say someone else was responsible for the 1989 murder of Savannah, Georgia, police officer Mark MacPhail.

But the board, which also denied clemency to Davis in 2008, was not swayed.

"This has been an extraordinary legal saga since the murder in 1989, and two years ago the United States Supreme Court did something it almost never does - instructed a District Court in Georgia to take another look at the case, hold a hearing," Toobin said.

A Savannah judge did just that, Toobin said, and issued a 170-page opinion saying that, despite the recanted testimony, "there is no substantial doubt cast on the verdict as far as this judge could tell." In short, Toobin said, the judge sided with the jury that originally found Davis guilty.

"I know lawyers can be very creative, but I think Troy Davis is really out of options. ... I never can underestimate the creativity of lawyers, but certainly, based on what I can see, based on my familiarity with the law, I think he will be executed (Wednesday)."

In addition to petitions carrying 600,000 signatures calling for clemency, Davis also garnered supported from Amnesty International, ex-President Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, among others. Asked if he had ever seen so much doubt and outrage surrounding a death penalty case, Toobin cited the controversy over Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the couple who in 1953 became the first U.S. civilians executed for espionage after being convicted of spying for the Soviet Union.

"That certainly generated more international outrage, but in recent history, certainly the Troy Davis case has generated the most attention, the most outrage in the United States. He's certainly the best-known person on death row," Toobin said.

Making this case all the more "peculiar," Toobin said, is that the execution will take place as executions and death sentences are on a significant decline since the 1990s.

"The death penalty is really fading in the United States, and there is a lot of disagreement about why that is, but certainly, (there are) fewer executions than there used to be. But this one does appear to be going forward, even with all the protests."

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Filed under: Courts • Crime • Death Penalty • Georgia • Justice • Supreme Court • U.S.
soundoff (247 Responses)
  1. bobcat2u

    So we're going to execute an innocent man. So what ? After all he's only a man of color. And besides, the only thing that matters is that the slain police officers mother is given justice. Makes me sad to be a white man sometimes.

    September 20, 2011 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
    • B+

      I would be surprised if you're white. If you are, I too am sad.

      September 20, 2011 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      thats what justice is you fool. Love how your so against the death penalty wait till your stupid family members are murdered and let me know how you feel then

      September 20, 2011 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Richard Pinkett

      The state of Georgia is about to commit murder. Be ashamed Georgia, be ashamed America, very ashamed.

      September 20, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • RegNVarG

      the reality being, no one is "white" ......with the sole xception being a "Casper" (as in ghost)
      likewise no one is "black".... or any other colour of allusion
      we animals are blindly purveyed descriptive assigned terms for political self serving interests, harboring intents of global over.population kontrol
      complacency is but a viral symptom precluding the eventual rollover of morphing into the world of the Eloi ....... from which there is NO escape

      September 20, 2011 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Read the 170 page brief, just because a few witnesses recanted after 25 years, doesn't change the evidence and the fact that he is guilty

      September 20, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Thor

      Rob.... now... Rob.... the "evidence" was not real evidence. When the cops "encourage" you to say something and make it clear what they want you to say on the stand..... and you are a weak moraled person...... you say whatever they want to keep out of their gunsights. The "evidence" that was used is ... for now.... tainted. Plain and Simple.

      September 20, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob Newhart

      Hey Richard Pinkett, I'm not ashamed!!!

      September 20, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Misstrixie

    This guy is a dirt bag plain and simple. His skin color has nothing to do with the situation. I bet he had a rap sheet as long as my arm before he committed the THREE crimes in one night. Sayonara, d-bag.

    September 20, 2011 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Troy_fam

      He never had a rap sheet and was never arrested before that incident..

      September 20, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • rastaman44

      Miss: You are an azzhole !!!

      September 20, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • jon

      any time your authoritative comment contains the words "I bet", you should realize that nothing you say holds water

      September 20, 2011 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Thor

      ...so sayth you.... perhaps when you are the next one the cops frame.....

      September 20, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. nclaw441

    All due respect, bobcat2u, but neither of us were at the trial of this case (were you?). His guilt was determined by a jury, who WAS present to hear the evidence and observe the demeanor of the defendant and the witnesses. I'll go with them, irrespective of whether Davis is a "man of color" or not.

    September 20, 2011 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • juice

      You mean the jury who heard from witnesses who later recanted?

      September 20, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Thor

      ....but..... one juror said she would change her verdict after having heard the real story......

      September 20, 2011 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  4. Byrd

    I guess republicans aren't so vehemently opposed to Sharia Law as advertised, however, if this man's death is the only way this poor woman can find Peace, when so many have recanted their coerced testimony, then she's a pitiful specimen indeed. Death only brings death. Not Peace. Sharia law has always thrived in Texas, and now in Georgia: Hypocrites of the worst kind.

    September 20, 2011 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • B+

      Calling the mother of a murdered policean pitiful ??? If you're black, know that you're community will never find peace until it takes responsibility for its actions. If you're white, I hope you and/or someone you love isn't the target of black violence, followed by public support for the criminal. Remember, what goes around comes around.

      September 20, 2011 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Byrd

      Black violence, huh? The kids in Columbine were white. The kid in Tampa who planned to kill his fellow students is white. Timothy McVeigh was white. Ted Kazinski is white...

      I'm white. But you're a racist and I find your racist comments both ignorant and offensive. And yes, if it takes someone else's death to give you peace, then you're absolutely pitiful.

      September 20, 2011 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  5. Mr. Doubt

    Well, I guess that's what makes America GREAT – CAPATALISM & EXECUTIONS!!! Why can't we put it on Pay-Per-View? Proceeds to the victim's family and 10% to me for coming up with this idea!

    September 20, 2011 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  6. Misstrixie

    @Byrd – you make no sense whatsoever. Sharia Law? Are you high?

    September 20, 2011 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Byrd

      You're part right: It's even worse: An eye for an eye. They don't care whose, just so long as the blood debt is paid by someone. Fallen angels one and all.

      September 20, 2011 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  7. Misstrixie

    I still don't get it.

    September 20, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • rastaman44

      Misstrixie: No , you would not . You still have the white robe with the hood?!!

      September 20, 2011 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  8. smartypants

    The death penalty is a deterrent when it is actually enforced. Most states have dozens if not hundreds of people on death row who will die of natural causes. Even in Georgia, it is taking this guy 22 years to get executed. Tell a typical 20-year-old that he will get executed when he is 42 if he murders someone and he will laugh because 22 years may as well be an eternity to him. The only justice that deters is swift justice. Period.

    September 20, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Tamara

      60 years of research have consistently shown that the death penalty is NOT a deterrent to anything. It does not matter how or when the sentence is imposed and carried out, there is no evidence that it deters crime.

      September 20, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Sam

    I see a huge contradiction here. Most of the people on here that are saying the justice system worked are the same beople that cried for blood when the one lady was recently found not guilty of killing her kid. Makes you wonder

    September 20, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Misstrixie

      I don't think people cried for blood, maybe for justice. Everyone knows that woman should be behind bars.

      September 20, 2011 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      And exactly how do you know she did it? Did you look into your crystal ball? Or your tv set?

      September 20, 2011 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
    • sunny lovetts

      No miss trix, they want blood.

      September 20, 2011 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Mel

      No one was out for blood, but many people wanted her to be held accountable for her daughter's death. We can't say for sure if she killed her, but the girl was in her care when she died, there was evidence that she knew the girl was dead and she didn't report it. People are simply angry that she got off scott free, when there was evidence of negligent manslaughter. She should be behind bars.

      September 20, 2011 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • rastaman44

      Misstrixie: proof positive that inbreeding should be banned in all fifty states.

      September 20, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  10. The Film Professor

    I'm ashamed to be from Georgia today. This case was all hearsay, and hearsay evidence alone should never lead to someone be executed. Most of the witnesses recanted, and even three of the jurors say that they would never have voted to execute this man had they heard all of the facts. How in God's name can we execute someone under these very problematical questions as to his guilt or innocence? I'm all for punishing the truly guilty, but this case is a judicial travesty.

    September 20, 2011 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Misstrixie

      I am not a supporter of the death penalty. A stick of pentothal is too good for these criminals. Life in prison is true punishment. Did you read about the other two crimes he committed that night? Total low life.

      September 20, 2011 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Thor

      I guess since you are from Georgia, you should stay in Georgia. If this is the system that you are voting for and promoting by your being there, you should be ashamed. Anyone should be ashamed to even hold a drivers license from the State of Georgia. If your mailing address has Georgia..... you should be ashamed if this man is executed on the coerced evidence that exists.

      September 20, 2011 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  11. wmpaulrobbins

    I do not believe the death penalty is a way of stopping violent crimes. I also do not believe that if there is the slightest question of the guilt of a person that the legal system should put someone to death. What is the loss of reevaluation within the court system providing real evidence and testimonies. Is this civilization? If Troy Davis is innocent...on whose hands does the blood lay?

    September 20, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  12. cynthia28

    To allow this execution to go forward without a a re-examination of the facts and the alternate suspect is an injustice to both families and the people of Chatham County.

    September 20, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  13. Mortified

    B+ keep your bigoted comments to yourself. You are a disgrace to human race. Anyone supporting racism is a disgrace to our race. And this guy should be hang just because of his skin color? Are you serious? ignorance is bliss.

    September 20, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • RegNVarG

      and if U R so "mortified" perhaps U kan xPlain just how U apparently remain breathing ......... like where.ever.....
      had U have taken the option to review the perverted doings of some euro.Trash centuries prior, to the populations who arrived ions before U would have been "mortified" long before now, being better off DeaD or better yet, NOT being at all .........
      believe in earl pitts while U still kan !!

      September 20, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Joann

    The problem I have is if his lawyers and the other people out there, the ones who jumped on the Troy Davis bandwagon proclaiming his innocence want to see his sentence go from death to life in prison, isn't that guilt in itself? Should they not have been pushing for a re-trial from the beginning to prove his innocence? NO ONE, including myself was at the original trial, however, shell cashings match from the scene of McPhails murder to those at the shooting of another man earlier that day, that man was shot by Davis. If people are naming another suspect, where is he?

    September 20, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Doc

      Actually, there is a significant group of people who feel that Coles – one of only 2 remaining witnesses that stand by their identification – was the guy who pulled the trigger.

      September 20, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. sunny lovetts

    IF I WAS MURDERED I WOULD NOT WANT MY KILLER TO BE EXECUTED! Forgiveness and love are the greatest gifts a human can give, but all of you fail so much. Stop all the hatred, stop all the anger. Libyan rebels are murdering black Libyans by the hundreds in Libya right now, not a peep on the news (wonder why).

    What? Were there lives less important that that police officers? A man is a man is a man is a man. You are all being desensitized. THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE!

    Love all, and pray often. Peace.

    September 20, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • RegNVarG

      what we have here is a failure lacking AwarEness ..... lacking also a desire to escape the purveyed bonds of smarts kontrol whose ulterior motive breeds GreeD !!

      September 20, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
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