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. Xtina

    >>I hope Georgia is proud- they've just proven every inbred redneck story about themselves to be true. Sad, sick, heartless murderers.<<

    The "heartless murderer" is the guy who shot a police officer, one who had a toddler and an infant waiting for him at home. Try a little perspective, huh?

    September 20, 2011 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mike from Calgary

    Remember the huge crowds cheering the beheadings in Iraq's stadiums, or the beheadings in France (last scene in movie "Tale of Two Cities" based on Charles Dicken's novel). Let the State Lynching proceed – so what if 7 States witnesses admit that they lied (imagine the pressure brought to bar on them to say what the State wanted them to say), so what if tens of death row inmates in Georgia alone have been released as innocents wroongly convicted ) proven innocent). Juries make mistakes. Jusges make mistakes. Prosecutors have suppressed evidence and police have fabricated evidence – but Americans love a good hanging or lynching or frying ... or even a State Killing by drugs. Give the peole what they want. The show must go on ... to hell with justice ... we need a good execution!
    (Thought CNN banner said repreieve granted ... not sure now)

    September 20, 2011 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jamarcus

    "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."

    And despite that controversy, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were guilty as sin. In his memoirs Nikita Krushchev wrote:

    "I was present at the talks that Stalin had in a limited circle when he
    mentioned the Rosenbergs with warmth, I feel it is my duty to speak of
    them now. I cannot specifically say what kind of help the Rosenbergs
    provided us, but both Stalin and Molotov were informed. Molotov knew
    because he was then the minister of foreign affairs. I heeard from both
    Stalin and Molotov that the Rosenbergs provided very significant help in
    accelerating the production of our atomic bomb.

    Probably the time will come when it will be possible to reveal all this
    openly and to pay the deepest respect to these people who gave their lives
    to help the proletarian state, the Soviet state, to produce an atomic bomb
    and thus to stand up to the imperialist world, primarily the United
    States..."

    September 20, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. chuckyTomson

    In the name of God this man is guilty and if by chance he isn't god can deal with people who put him to death. Either he pays for his crime or goes to heaven for all of time. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

    September 20, 2011 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • A. Slim

      "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out." Really? That's the best you've got?
      .5/10 (you really aren't very good at this)

      September 20, 2011 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew Fleischman

      That is pretty much exactly the justification for burning witches. But, if killing innocent people isn't bad because they just go to heaven anyway, then shouldn't EVERY mother get an abortion?

      September 20, 2011 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • poetrynearth

      Cop out answer. The state of GA and the District Attorney needs to save face. They don't really care about Troy Davis. In any case, if 7 of the 9 people have recanted, the case bears a second look. The opinion was that of one individual gave his "opinion." He chose not to allow a new trial. Would the new trial have ended the same? It may have. It may not have. Could the reason be that Troy Davis may have been found not guilty if granted a new trial? Race relations and the need to find a guilty party for the killing of a police officer were probably high at the time. Police and detectives are always wanting to close the books fast on these cases. For anyone who doesn't believe that witnesses are coerced in cases such as these, please think again. Believe me, these charges will stick. Why do you or anyone else think those witness recantations may or may not have held up under cross-examination? Well, it's possible they aren't the cream of society either. Not only that, they would be proven to have lied in the first trial. However, it would open a can of worms of police tactics they use when they need to close a case. This case, they want to close. Maybe some day we will find out the truth, and if Troy did kill the officer, then he will have paid for his crime. If he didn't, then God have mercy on those who took his life when they could have stopped it.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • puffy mcpufferton

      Well.... he is black!

      September 21, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • jenny

      how dare you use the name of god to put a man to deathyou sound like the devil I will pray for you because you need help

      September 21, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • HumanistJohn

      There is no god. This mans death is the end of his existence. Anyone who would be ok with killing a innocent man is a pathetic excuse for a human being.

      September 21, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gloria

      Makes me wonder if you'd be a little more vested in saving this man if he was the "right kind of person". Wink wink, nudge nudge. Jerk.

      September 21, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Tom J

    It also interesting that after the USSR fell, records were released and it was confirmed that the Rosenbergs were indeed guilty. I read Judge Moore's 170 page opinion which examined all the evidence in this case– and the only reasonable conclusion based on that is Davis is guilty. the people who supposedly recanted through affidavits (and they did not even recant all of ther testimony) were not allowed to testify by Davis's own attorneys because they knew their recantations would not stand up under cross examination.

    September 20, 2011 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sam

    7 out 9 eyewitnesses recanted their testimonies because they were pressured by the police to implicate Troy Davis? What no new trial? Tomorrow will be sad day in America if they Georgia goes through this man is put to death.

    September 20, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. twotoneeight

    Love those folks that insist that gummint can't do anything right. Except execute people. Seems that they can do that right. Don't know why, but I have my doubts.

    September 20, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
  8. demoncat4

    cant believe after all the testimony and recanting of7 witness who originaly helped convict troy saying they were forced to and the board decides sorry not going to grant clemency talk about justice long gone wrong and an innocent guy will wind p dieing for a crime most now say he did not do it

    September 21, 2011 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  9. Largebill

    Crime was committed over 20 years ago. He should have been executed if guilty or released if innocent decades ago. If he did it (which it is a near certainly he did) he should have been dealt with then. You don't smack a dog on the nose 20 years after he craps on the carpet.

    September 21, 2011 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
  10. morticiaa1979

    Just so you know, I did NOT write the comment with my name on it, BUT I did write the one about Randy Atkins–sick freak. So, CNN website is having issues on that.

    September 21, 2011 at 12:33 am | Report abuse |
  11. Rooboy

    I'm sure the judge is a fair guy...maybe he was just hungover when he sided with the old decision so he didn't have to think of something new to say. With 600,000 signatures surely he could at least postpone the execution until he has had time to really dig into the new material.

    September 21, 2011 at 12:37 am | Report abuse |
  12. Big D

    Time to take the trash out!

    September 21, 2011 at 2:02 am | Report abuse |
  13. bigwilliestyles

    People are always trying to use the fact that the victim was a policeman to justify the death penalty. The police murder people all the time, but are rarely held accountable. And when they are convicted, they never get the death penalty; their sentences are usually slaps on the wrist (Bart killings are a good example of this). The Fullerton officers are free to track down and intimidate or even kill any witnesses to their crime; the DA (the man who described the beating as a "violent struggle" has the names, addresses, and phone numbers of any potential witnesses, and as long as he wants to bring the case to trial. "Justice" in this country is a load of crock.

    September 21, 2011 at 2:58 am | Report abuse |
    • P anchovies illa

      if you don't like justice here, try china for a change

      September 21, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. chillipepper

    When a black man kills a white man and even more if he's a cop who was killed there is little outrage by liberals. Infact they would like to set him free because so many black people are in prison. Which is so unfair. Liberals are baffled why so many blacks are in prison. Bet they think it's racism.

    September 21, 2011 at 5:40 am | Report abuse |
  15. weisser wolf

    This case has been given a "second look", and a third, fourth, etc. and it appears every step there was agreement he comitted the crime. If you notice, every article, bar none, never goes into any details regarding the SPECIFICS of the case; the articles sound as if they are written by defense attorneys themselves, void of any details, injected with emotional pleas, etc...

    If there is no physical evidence linking him with the crime, how was even a suspect/convicted to begin with?!?!

    September 21, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
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