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. Big Red

    Innocent don't know. But be fair and just. Professionalism and expert opinion seems to have determined his fate.

    September 20, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Fakechristians

    Jesus would have forgiven him, Christans filled with hate want to kill him... hypocracy!

    Jail for life could be a compromise.

    September 20, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mycenia

    I don't know if an innocent man is going to die tomorrow, but I feel there is enough doubt to stay the execution. Obviously, a vast number of people agree. Including people in high places. Killing a man when there is even a shadow of doubt is murder. Period. I used to support the death penalty, but then I used to have faith in the justice system. Now, I would rather pay for 100 animal to rot in prison for life than put one innocent man to death... You have to wonder about this parole panel when you hear that they have granted clemency only 3 times in 30 years (7 times altogether for Georgia in general).

    September 20, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bob

    Death penalty fading in the US?! Texas is on a role with 3 executions this month

    September 20, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Anna

    Mine is prayer. Almighty God and Father, I pray that Troy Davis will not be executed if he is innocent. I make this prayer believing the You alone are the all-knowing, all-powerful and ever-living God. You see the most secret of all secrets for nothing can be hidden from You, Almighty Father. You are the Reader of every heart and thought. Let Your own Holy Will alone be done in this whole case. I make this prayer of faith in the mighty Name of Jesus Christ. Amen!!!

    September 20, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • frank


      September 20, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Clearly, if he dies he was guilty. If he is innocent, God will take charge and prevent the execution.

      September 20, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • ProCon

      Tears rolled down as I read your prayer. The victim's family thinks that killing will bring peace them. I wonder if he dies tomorrow, and the victim's family goes to church next sunday or saturday (depends on their religion) and hear a sermon about forgivness, how will they feel?

      September 20, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. SM

    Do you know that he also killed another man than night with the same gun?! He did things when he was young that were awful and now he is finally paying for them. The cop he shot was there helping the homeless man he was assaulting. The man had some anger issues obviously.

    September 20, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Julie

      And I suppose you "know" this because you were there that night? Didn't think so.

      September 20, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |

    Animals that kill should be put down. It has nothing to do with religion. It's a matter of practicality.

    September 20, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. CVD

    only god knows the truth, just pray the right decision was made.

    September 20, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. David

    If you have doubts about his guilt you should post a note to Goernor Deal here:,2657,165937316_166563415,00.html I just did, and asked him to commute the sentence to life in prison becuase I would not want to execute a man if there was ANY doubt to his guilt, regardless of whether its enough to overturn his conviction.

    September 20, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jeff Frank ( R - OHIO ) "Far Right Insanity'

    "There appears to be no help for the deaf, dumd, and blind in Georgia."

    September 20, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  11. CDaeda

    His last option is to curse all those whom kill but do not get punishment.

    September 20, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. imkelly

    There have been 273 post-conviction DNA exonerations in United States history. Every year this number grows. This statistic confirms what many of us already know – our justice is far from perfect; mistakes are made. Given this, and that there is so much doubt in the case of Troy Davis – no physical evidence connecting Davis to the crime; no murder weapon was found; 7 witnesses recanted – it is quite possible an innocent man will be executed tomorrow. When innocence is in the relm of possibility – it is unconscionable for anyone to support the execution of Troy davis or anyone for that matter.

    September 20, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff Frank ( R - OHIO ) "Far Right Insanity'

      That is damming in and of itself. But still they are using this to "play the court card" This whole scenario kind of reminds me of the trials and tribulations of "Bufford Pusser".

      September 20, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. CDaeda

    Biblical beliefs state that those whom think of murder but never commit the act is just as guilty as those whom commit the act. Hence, the death penalty should be applied to everyone because of this hideous sin.

    September 20, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Be Reasonable

      You are an idiot.

      September 20, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Cynthia

    The only evidence presented against him was eyewitness testimony. NO OTHER EVIDENCE was presented. There was no physical evidence, no DNA evidence, no murder weapon, NOTHING. He was sentenced to death based on what other people said. Now 7 of the 9 have recanted their testimony. The two that haven't are the other suspect that went to the police first and a guy that said he couldn't identify the shooter when interviewed yet testified two years later that it was Troy Davis.
    I am for the death penalty, but not in this case. There is too big of a chance that he is innocent. The evidence is extremely flimsy.

    September 20, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Do Him NOW!!!!!

    Anna save your prayer for his soul because this human POS is going to die tomorrow night!!! And it is justly deserved. I am only sad that we are not still using the ELECTRIC CHAIR here in Georgia as the means of execution. I would volunteer to pull the switch and I can guarantee you I would give human piece of crap a real charge on his way out and on to HELL.

    September 20, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Luke

      Wow, how deliciously self-righteous of you. The prayer was lame too.

      September 20, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Julie

      You aren't interested in justice. You are interested in revenge. There's a huge difference between those two things.

      September 20, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
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