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. Fakechristians

    It has everything to do with your religion...that is if you're a person who's religion says you shall not kill as one of the primary "rules".

    IF you happen to be Christian this applies, unless of course you dismiss the new testament and the teachings of Jesus.

    September 20, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • JEM

      OJ did not kill his wife. Google "OJ Guilty but not of Murder"

      September 20, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • yeltzin

      ha – has nothing to do with my religion as I'm not religious. It is about justice – about a man who had just shot one man in the face then shot a cop in the face after already pumping two bullets into him. Personally I think life without parole is a fate worse than death, but since this coward is sooo afraid then this one is meant for him. But. the evil blkhearts always blame the victim and now suggest that the victims mother will settle for punishing an innocent while knowing the man who murdered her son is free. I don't think so, but obviously those who imagine that absurdity are capable of such insanity.

      September 20, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • tkessler45

      Yeah "you shall not kill," but it doesn't say a thing about "we" now, does it? We can kill all we want!

      September 20, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ProCon

    The white men will never...ever forgive a black man. Regardless if he's guilty or not. WHY? because they know God will not forgive them for slavery.

    September 20, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Julie

      Thank you for using reasoning that was relevant 100 years ago, and for using racial stereotypes. That really brings some understanding to the cause.

      September 20, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • cruelhonesty

      related question....will the black man ever forgive the white man?

      September 20, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • yeltzin

      So many thrive on victimhood it must be an excuse for failure and ignorance. Race hustlers make a lavish living from preaching it. They demand statues, street names, and holidays so that the bitterness will be instilled in those who never suffered and blame assigned to those whose ancestors never owned slaves but are at fault for being born white.

      September 20, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Davethecanuck

      Better ask yourself if God will forgive your willful ignorance and misplaced hatred instead.
      I doubt anyone of any race is innocent of being the decendant of a slave owner from some point in history.

      September 20, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • dutspup

      Dont forget who sold you, dueche

      September 20, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • M

      Try doing a little homework and you'll find a very large number of blacks came here as free men, not slaves. If I remember correctly it was a larger number than the number of slaves brought here. But then a black man really doesn't want to hear the truth because that would mean he is really full of hate by nature , a racist and could no longer blame someone else for his own failures as a human being.

      September 20, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • justice

      Yeah, I'm glad I sold off those few remaining slaves a few years ago. They were gettin' old and needed to retire anyhow.

      September 20, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Nuevo Cicero

    Like the Romans used to say:

    putrescat in inferno ille

    September 20, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Maggie

    As Christians we're required to forgive, as Jesus forgave those who nailed him to the cross. I feel for the victims – they have my prayers and deepest synpathy; but two wrongs don't make a right. I can't support the death penalty as a Christian. But even if I was not a believer I still wouldn't. I would like to think that the Criminal Justice System is fair, but many times it isn't. Often convictions are based on flawed evidence, ignored evidence, politics, etc. I'd like to point to the many people who've been convicted and later found to be innocent. Better for guilty people to sit in prison forever than for one innocent person to be executed.

    September 20, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      As a christian? Is this the same religion that burned "witches" and heretics at the stake for the last 4 to 500 years?

      September 20, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Nuevo Cicero

    My religion says:
    Thou shall not kill unless someone is trying to kill you or your family or has killed inoccent people.
    I like my religion!!

    September 20, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  6. alanseago

    To ProCon: I agree with Julie - your reasoning is flawed.

    A key point is that this case has nothing to do with forgiveness - it has to do with whether Mr. Davis murdered the police officer. So even if your analysis were correct - which it isn't - the supposed unwillingness of white people to forgive black people would be irrelevant.

    September 20, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Trumpet player

    "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)."

    I think he meant overstimate.

    September 20, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lawyer Creativity

      Sorry, but "underestimate" is correct here. Mr. Toobin does not underestimate the ability of creative lawyers to attack the death penalty in novel ways (meaning that Mr. Davis' lawyers could conceivably come up with another creative approach to stay his execution), but in his judgment and experienced opinion, Mr. Davis is out of options.

      September 20, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jeff Frank ( R - OHIO ) "Far Right Insanity'


    September 20, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Satan

    His soul is mine come tomorrow night!

    September 20, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • yeltzin

      and he will be the basic cells of a human life impregnated into a Haitian female who sleeps next to an open latrine. Nine months from now Johnny Cohran will have another baby brother.

      September 20, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. GG

    I wish there was more facts regarding the evidence used to convict him. There seems to be enough reasonable doubt to warrant a new trial. I certainly thing he was there – he knows what happened. Reading a little deeper into this case it could have easily been Redd Coles who pulled the trigger. It was either Davis or Coles who killed officer MacPhail. The one indisputable fact is that there was a dead cop in the parking lot immediately after Davis and Coles confronted the homeless man over a beer. One of them did it.

    September 20, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Bob


    September 20, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Varn Chandola

    Since we are fighting for freedom and justice in places such as Afghanistan, Libya and Iran is there something that we can do for the American state of Georgia? I personally know what it feels like to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and suddenly find yourself in the battle of your life and for your life. Since I value my life, I will just try my best to stay away from Georgia.

    September 20, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  13. caesar

    god will deal a heavy blow for this .

    September 20, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Correction

      god can blow me, that's for sure.

      September 20, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. dutspup

    In 29 hours this guy will be worm food and the next group of crows will be squaking about another innocent thug blackman that killed soemone else (by accident) because the drugs made him do it. NEXT

    September 20, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Din

    I just love how a murderer (who happens to be black) causes so much racial accusations. Is it better to end a murderer's life or to worsen our economic depression with supporting his life in jail with our tax dollars???

    September 20, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Correction

      Way to miss the the point, Din! And, congratulations on reaching such a high level of ignorance. It costs a lot more to go through process after process of putting someone to death than it does to keep them in jail.

      September 20, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
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