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. Richard

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

    September 20, 2011 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • redwine9991

      If this guy is innocent and is murdered, then the entire panel should also be put to death for killing an innocent man.

      September 20, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      I'm sorry Dick, but what has lead you to this conclusion? Were you part of the original jury trial? Are you a judge sitting on the case? Were you an investigator? Thought so.

      September 20, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • frank

      Richard and redwine999:

      He was found guilty by a jury of his peers, an appellate judge, and a parole board.

      This is how democracy works.


      The guy isn't a Nobel prize winner. He isn't likely to cure cancer. He is a career criminal and a burden to society.

      Oh, and a cop killer.

      September 20, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sheesh

      This is sooo sad, I swear I will never go to the state of GEORGIA and I will boycott everything from that state, people, music, culture, all of it!!!

      September 20, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • IggyDad

      I don't know if he is innocent or not, but given the uncertainty it would be grossly irresponsible for the state of Georgia to put him to death.

      September 20, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • ponderus

      Perhaps Richard meant it differently? Capital punishment fails EVERY requirement for "use of deadly force" - save for that it is declared "non-murder." A man in a cement box with bars in front just doesn't qualify. You have to accommodate yourself to the concept of "legalized murder." History is full of examples of now-it's-legal, now-it's not. Calling something "legal" does not declare it rigth or wrong or good or evil. Just "legal" or "illegal." My view is that it's still murder.

      September 20, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • TJ

      I agree. In 1989, GA was a different place for a Black man and the police dept. Today the witnesses are saying that they were forced to lie in order to convict Davis. The DA has said himself that based on the evidence today, he would not bring charges against him. Troy Davis is innocent BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT and should not die in order to ease the victims family. I truly believe that if Troy Davis were white, this would not have happened. Shame of GA!

      September 20, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • ponderus

      Oh - and don't leave Good Ol' TX off your boycott list. Or OK. Maybe it's the petrochemicals in the ground or water there.

      September 20, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • ponderus

      I think this isn't really a racial issue. If the fellow hadn't been involved in any criminal activity earlier in the day, we probably wouldn't be reading about all of this now. This guy (as frank mentions) is not someone you would want living next door - even if he's green. This is still murder.

      September 20, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. michelle

    This whole sad case doesn't surprise me – both Georgia & Alabama are both famous for the disgraceful treatment of black people. Who knows – maybe both Georgia & Alabama natives still lynch black people, and we never hear about it. Lesson learned: DON'T expect justice from Georgia, especially if you're a black person – they don't care. Its 'let the white person get away with anything & everything', but let a black person cross the street wrong, and the law's there to execute that person. I love the way the state of Georgia will be portrayed from here on out – 'the state that is giddy when they hang a black person'. As for that family of the cop that died that says 'justice has been served' – you can say that all you want. But until you turn it over to God, you'll never have peace; and now one day you will know the truth that an innocent man was put to death. Can you(and all the jury members, head honchos who denied Mr. Davis justice, etc) live with blood on your hands for that?

    September 20, 2011 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob the Janitor

      Innoent men don't have accusing fingers pointed at them...

      September 20, 2011 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
    • lynseypug

      *points finger at Bob*

      September 20, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reaper

      Don't drag the race card into this mess. Davis, regardless of the color of his skin, deserves an unbiased trial before paying the ultimate penalty. Anyone should be able to see this. This man deserves to be adjudicated "beyond a reasonable doubt." Wake up supremes, appellates, district, and state. The man deserves this!

      September 20, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      Are you serious Michelle? "maybe both Georgia & Alabama natives still lynch black people, and we never hear about it." As a white male born in Alabama I take serious offense to that statement. Your ignorance of southern history and your blatant racist comments do nothing but polarize people of all creeds and colors. The justice system in this particular case is very flawed in my opinion but that doesn't give you or me a business case to berate an entire race of people (white or black). Please think about the impact of such statements before you make them! This article is about the flaws of a judicial system and NOT a place to air your stereotypical racist beliefs!

      September 20, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • WL

      come now Bob, you really believe that only the guilty are ever accused? What world do you live in?

      September 20, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Thor

    I guess the thing that will hurt the State of Georgia if Troy Davis is re-tried, is that the District Attorney's "evidence" will be refuted. Now..... we can't have a white district attorney be wrong when he wants to kill a black man.... can we?
    – signed White, Affluent, Ex-Police Officer, Republican, Death-Penalty-Believer, Retired Military, Security-Cleared American, Southern-born Male.

    September 20, 2011 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Sheesh

      Hey Thor... Your comment was so on point. I always did have a thing for smart white men, signed beautiful black woman

      September 20, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • GA Peach

      You missed "Tea Party Lover".

      September 20, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |

    the justice system in this country works like this:

    even if he didn't do it,he did something else and got away with it.

    September 20, 2011 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |

      I found your lack of faith disturbing.

      {squeezing thumb and forefinger together}

      September 20, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. us1776

    Georgia has it's black scapegoat, can hide its shoddy detective work, and protect its faulty justice system.

    All it costs is one innocent black man. But hey, in this country, railroading innocent black men is a national pastime.

    September 20, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  6. Andy W

    He was given a fair trial and found guilty. He does not deny shooting another man in the face earlier in the day the murder happened, he does not deny pistol whipping the homeless man. The witnesses did not actually recant their testimony, they have stated they did not read the statement after they were typed; yet the witness testimony at the trial was the same as the statements. This man is guilty and have should get the ultimate punishment

    September 20, 2011 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Norm

      Your addition of this information and having don so without associated hysterics and name-calling is appreciated.

      September 20, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      "He does not deny shooting another man " – since when? he absolutely denied it. The other man that was shot also stated Davis didn't know him well enough to shoot him and that he (the shot man) was drunk. At least one witness said their false testimony was the result of the police threatening prison if they didn't essentially say what the police wanted.

      September 20, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Just me

    All death row inmates are always innocent- does anyone ever notice that? Black, white, green, purple- it doesn’t matter. So to read that "Lesson learned: DON'T expect justice from Georgia, especially if you're a black person – they don't care" is very troubling. This guy was found guilty by a jury of his peers for a senseless crime he committed. Why is it that we always want to grant clemency to the killer, but the victim still lies cold in the ground? This decision is right, its true and its absolute. For all the religious folks out there who decided when to apply Christian principles when it’s convenient... please let’s not forget "eye for an eye".

    September 20, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      If you really feel that way, are you not accepting his penalty as "payment in full" for his crime? Will he not rule over those who murdered him when he is resurected? I think you people are drunk.

      September 20, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      And yet- various people on death row have been found to have been innocent. Weird eh?

      September 20, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Milton

      Just me, Lets not forget the story in in John chapter 8 of the woman accused of adultery. There was no doubt whatsoever about her guilt. According to the law of Moses she should have been stoned to death. As we both know, Jesus intervened by making the pharisees see their own shortcomings and she was not executed. My point is that you are the one who is applying Christian principles only when convenient.

      September 20, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Just me

      And plenty of killers walked free too.. What a coincidence

      September 20, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • ju"san

      members of the jury have said with new evidence they would not have given him the DP.

      September 20, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sheesh

      @Just Me...3 of the jurors have already come forward to say that if they knew this information at the time of trial they would have voted NOT GUILTY you jerk

      September 20, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Why is it always the white man fault? I am tired of hearing about the poor black man. The President of the US is black. To bad the unions took all the money earmarked for education. Wake up, the Liberials in this country do not want you to be educated or succeed. You are the ONLY ethnic group in the US that are not progressing, WHY? You don't care about yourselves. Look at your policy of "No Snich', developed by guilty people who don't want you to witness against them. Look toward yourselves. Get educated, get more black laywers, more black politications, more black teachers, more black doctors. You should be a very proud race but you let your so-called black leaders keep you down. When are you going to join the ranks of all Americans and call yourselves Americans of African descent not African Americans. Don't separate yourselves from the rest of us. Join America , there is room for all of us to live together.

      September 20, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • TJ

      But the very fact that some death row inmates are found INNOCENT, placed there by eye witnesses should give you pause....

      September 20, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Just me

      This is all hear say' and after the fact. Please refrain from name calling. I’m not surprised that the” Oh, well maybe- could be, might have been”, started since after the verdict. I mean really, a few witnesses all the sudden can remember 20 years later what they could not remember on the day of the trial. This guy acted as judge, jury and executioner for that officer, where was the 600,000 people, and presidents and stories for him? I will refrain from any further comments; he will pay for his crime...period.

      September 20, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Who cares

      @ Tom, all i want to say to you " you can say that again".

      September 22, 2011 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  8. Jubril

    An irony an inmate kills a Judge, a sheriff and a Law enforcement Agent and gets Life in prison, the other kills a cop and gets death.

    September 20, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Chris

    None of us can say with certainty if Troy Davis is guilty or not, but considering the lack of physical evidence, I don't see how the death penalty can be applied.
    Capital punishment should only be applied with there is no doubt about guilt.

    September 20, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mr.M (Proud to be Canadian)

    I hope this guy is guilty, because if he is not the parole board should be held accountable for there actions.

    September 20, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • John-ur-a-tool

      What an insightful* comment!!! BTW it is : "THEIR"
      Stick to the entertainment section you twit.

      September 20, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jack

    The greatest crime here is that it has taken 22 years to reach this point. All the identical processes (appeal, recants, reviews, etc) should have and could have been completed in a couple of years max. Look at the cost, lost hope, emotion, etc that the bureaucracy has caused. Justice should be swift!

    September 20, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jean Sartre, WI

      Yeah, man, lets just start killing them before the trial; look at all the money and emotional disturbance we would save!

      September 20, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. John-ur-a-tool

    He's not out of options. He still gets to pick his last meal.

    September 20, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sheesh

      You are a real sarcastic jack butt...I hope you find a cliff nearby so you can do us all a favor and jump

      September 20, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. gung hoe

    This case makes me absolutly ashamed to be caucaison .This past sunday for the first time I went to a black church never in my life have i felt so close to god and loved Now wiith that said when georgia kills troy wednesday I truly hope it gives that cops mom peace knowing that she wanted a inocent man dead because of his coler and BOBCAT2U IAM WITH YOU ON THIS ONE BROTHER

    September 20, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • kentraco

      I believe that seven of the twelve jury members were black.

      September 20, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Big Red

    Every race/ethnic group has persons who commit crimes. But all should be judged fairly. I don't know if this man is innocencent, but he was on a rampage the night of the police officers murder. I can't judge, but his God can. judged fai

    September 20, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Brad5013

    As God said from the mountain top, "Thou Shalt Not Kill" . . . except by lethal injection in some Redneck bigot state.

    September 20, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jean Sartre, WI

      The 5th Commandment does state that "Thou Shal Not Kill"... I never heard any GOD that MAN has CREATED say that... I do know that "Thou Shall Not Kill" does not come with any caveats, such as, unless our legal system says its KOOL!

      But then, religion and our legal system are so very different things... one of these systems actually makes sense, once in a while... NOT, however, in the Troy Davis case...

      I just wish they would put the "Killing of Troy Davis" on HBO Pay Per View tomorrow night, so the entire world could see the GREAT STATE OF GEORGIA in action..

      September 20, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
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