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Officer's family angered by execution delay

After a Georgia inmate convicted of murdering a police officer was spared from execution a second time, the victim's family is upset.
Image: Troy Davis
Seven of nine witnesses who helped put Troy Davis on death row have recanted their testimony.Georgia Dept. of Corrections
/ Source: The Associated Press

After a Georgia inmate convicted of murdering a police officer was spared from execution a second time, the condemned man's supporters erupted in joy. But far from television cameras, the victim's family seethed.

"My son is dead. Theirs is still alive," said Anneliese MacPhail, the officer's mother. "That's just the way I feel."

Arm-in-arm with the Rev. Al Sharpton, Troy Davis' exultant family and a busload of supporters sang, wept and prayed Tuesday when they learned he was granted a temporary reprieve from the U.S. Supreme Court just hours before he was to be executed.

It was the second time he had been spared and, for Davis' family, another opportunity to proclaim his innocence and press for a new trial. The execution will be delayed for at least a couple of weeks. The court is scheduled to review Davis' appeal at a private conference on Monday.

Away from the spotlight was the grieving family of Mark MacPhail, who was shot and killed in 1989 while moonlighting as a security guard at a Savannah bus station. He rushed to help a homeless man who had been pistol-whipped and was shot twice when he approached Davis and two other men.

Embittered by delays and legal maneuvering, the family was devastated by Tuesday's reprieve.

"I'm furious, disgusted and disappointed," Anneliese MacPhail said. "I want this over with. This has been hanging over us for 19 years."

High-profile supporters
Davis was convicted in 1991, after prosecutors at his trial said he approached McPhail with a "smirk on his face" as he fired the gun. But seven of the nine key witnesses who helped put Davis on death row have since recanted their statements. Three other people have said one of the witnesses who testified at Davis' trial later confessed to killing the officer.

The fresh doubts, coupled with Davis' claims of innocence, have drawn support from high-profile leaders like President Jimmy Carter and South Africa Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Amnesty International has organized protests as far away as Paris, and Sharpton has helped lead rallies calling for a new trial.

Amid the concerns, the state pardons board postponed Davis' execution in July 2007 less than 24 hours before it was to occur. The courts have since thoroughly vetted the case.

A divided Georgia Supreme Court this year has twice rejected his request for a new trial, and the pardons board turned down his bid for clemency this month after considering the case again.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued its last-minute stay Tuesday night after Davis had already turned down his last meal and prepared his final statement.

Agonizing wait
For MacPhail's family, the lengthy appeals process has been excruciating.

"If I saw him, I'd punch him in the face," the victim's mother said of Davis. "I am angry at the whole family. I don't know how they have such a following."

Mark MacPhail was an Army Ranger for almost six years before he and his wife decided to settle down and he became a police officer in Savannah.

To his 74-year-old mother, who sat through the trial and becomes livid when she talks about the case, there's no question that Davis pulled the trigger.

"I don't think there will ever be closure. There's a hole in our heart that will never be healed," she said. "But we just want Mark to rest in peace. And we want to live now. We have just been existing all these years, waiting for the next shoe to drop.

"When it's over, justice has been done. That's the way we feel."