Troy Davis Case: Was the Wrong Man Executed?

Over 20 years Troy Davis maintained his innocence. Did the state of Georgia execute the wrong man in this crime?

Troy Anthony Davis was born on October 9, 1968. Davis was an African American man who was convicted of an August 19, 1989 murder of Mark MacPhail, a police officer in Savannah, Georgia.

At the time, MacPhail was working at a local Burger King restaurant as a security guard. When MacPhail intervened during an altercation in a close-by parking lot, he was shot and murdered.

Davis went on trial in 1991. During Davis’s trial, the prosecution brought seven witnesses to the stand. These witnesses testified that they had seen Davis shoot and kill MacPhail. Two witnesses even went as far to say that Davis told them he was the one who shot and killed MacPhail as well.

Overall, the prosecution brought a grand total of 34 witnesses who testified against Davis. Davis defense team brought 6 witnesses including Davis himself to the witness stand.

Even though, the murder weapon was never found. Even though there was ballistic evidence at the crime scene, the prosecution linked the bullets that were at the crime scene to those bullets that Davis used in another shooting a while back. Ultimately, Davis was convicted and charged with the murder of MacPhail and sentenced to death in August of 1991.

Events of August 18–23, 1989

The charges that Davis faced came from the shooting of Michael Cooper, along with the beating of Larry Young, and ending with the murder of Mark MacPhail. These events took place between August 18 to August 23, 1989.

It all started during the evening hours of August 18, 1989. Davis was in attendance to a pool party located in the Cloverdale neighborhood in Savannah, Georgia. When Davis was leaving the party, he left with his friend, Daryl Collins. This is when the occupants of a passing vehicle starting yelling obscenities at the pair. This is when these same occupants began shooting at a group of teenagers also in the neighborhood.

One of the teenagers from the group returned fire at the vehicle. Michael Cooper, a passenger in the vehicle, was shot in the jaw. All while Collins and Davis headed to the pool hall located on Oglethorpe Avenue in Savannah, Georgia.

Later that same exact evening, Collins and Davis were walking near the Burger King on Oglethorpe Avenue, which was not far from the pool hall they were previously at. The pair then ran into Sylvester “Redd” Coles, who was in the middle of an argument with Larry Young, a homeless man. Unfortunately, Young was pistol-whipped, and he could never identify who did that to him.

Then around 1:15 am on August 19, 1989, an off-duty police officer known as Mark MacPhail was working as a security guard at the local Burger King on Oglethorpe Avenue. This is where MacPhail was trying to intervene in the altercation of Young being pistol-whipped in the parking lot.

This is where MacPhail was shot twice, the first shot was through his heart and the second shot was through his face. When the bullets and shell casings were taken into evidence. They perceived that the shell casings and bullets came from a .38-caliber pistol, which was also taken from the crime scene.

Witnesses to this crime stated that the man who shot and killed MacPhail and pistol-whipped Young was wearing a white shirt.

It was not until August 19, when Coles went down to the Savannah Police Department and said that he saw Davis with a .38-caliber pistol and that he was sure that it was Davis who pistol-whipped Young as well.

What Coles failed to tell the Savannah Police Department was that he also owned a .38-caliber weapon, which was carrying during the night of the shooting as well. This very same evening of the shooting, Davis drove up to Atlanta to visit his sister.

It was not until the early morning hours of August 20, 1989, when the Savannah Police Department went to the home where Davis lived and searched it. During the search of Davis’s home, they found a pair of Davis’ shorts that were in the dryer.

Then on August 23, 1989, Davis came back to Savannah from visiting his sister in Atlanta. This is when Davis surrendered himself to the Savannah Police where he was formally charged with the murder of Mark MacPhail.

The murder weapon used in this crime scene was never recovered. Coles told the Savannah Police that he did not even know where his .28 caliber pistol was before they could even test it.

The Life of Troy Davis

Davis was the eldest child of a hospital worker, Virginia Davis, and Korean War veteran, Joseph Davis. Mr. and Mrs. Davis divorced when Davis was still very young. Davis early years were growing up with four siblings in a mainly black, middle-class Cloverdale neighborhood in Savannah, Georgia.

Davis went to Windsor Forest High School. One of his teachers there would later in life describe him as a poor student. Davis dropped out of high school in his junior year. Davis dropped out, so he could take his disabled sister to her rehabilitation.

Davis ended up getting his high-school equivalency diploma in 1987 from Richard Arnold Education Center. One of his teachers there stated that while Davis attended school religiously, he was not very disciplined.

One nickname Davis always had was “Rah” or also known as “Rough as Hell”, but neighbors would later go on and say that the nickname never reflected his demeanor. All his neighbors would later describe Davis as one straight up individual who acted like everyone’s big brother to the local children in the area.

The Life of Mark MacPhail

Mark Allen MacPhail, Sr., was only 27 years old when he was murdered. MacPhail was a son of a United States Army Colonel. MacPhail was married and even had two children; an infant son and a two-year-old daughter.

MacPhail joined the Savannah Police Department back in 1986 after he served six years in the military as an Army Ranger.

Troy Davis Case

A grand jury on November 15, 1989, indicted Davis for the shooting of Michael Cooper, pistol-whipping Larry Young, and intervening MacPhail while he was performing his duty, along with possession of a firearm.

In April 1990, Davis pleads not guilty.

Then in November 1990, the judge presiding over the trial excluded vital forensic evidence that came from the pair of shorts that were taken from the search of Davis’s home. The judge even ruled that Davis’s own mother did not technically voluntarily let the police in to search her home. Davis’s mother stated that the Savannah police officers threaten to break in her door unless she opened it to allow them into her home. In May of 1991, the Georgia Supreme Court even upheld the exclusion of evidence stating that the police needed to go through the proper steps to get a search warrant.

It was not until August of 1991 when Davis was brought to trial.

The Prosecution Case

The prosecution stated that Davis shot at Cooper while he was in Cloverdale, then Davis met up with Coles at the pool hall, which after they left the pool hall Davis then pistol-whipped Larry Young before shooting and killing MacPhail.

The prosecution had three witnesses that saw Davis shoot Cooper. They brought them to the stand.

Witnesses

However, Cooper testified in front of the court that he was intoxicated during the time he was shot. But Cooper then stated that he had an issue with Davis, but that Davis did not know him well enough to want to shoot him.

Another witness Benjamin Gordon testified that the man who shot cooper was in blue shots and a white Batman shirt. On further cross-examination, Gordon stated that he did not see the person who indeed shot at Cooper and that he honestly did not even know who Davis was.

The last witness was Daryl Collins. Collins in a statement to the Savannah police on the back on August 19, 1989, stated that Davis was the one who shot at the car. The car that Cooper was traveling in. Upon further cross-examination, Collins then denied that he had even seen Davis carrying or evening having a weapon during the night in question. However, Collins was only 16 at the time he made his original statement. Collins claimed that the Savannah police stated that he would be going to jail if he did not co-operate with them and their investigation.

When it came to eyewitnesses for the MacPhail’s murder, the prosecution called in numerous ones to the stand.

Antoine Williams stated that Davis was indeed wearing a white shirt on the night in question. That Davis was the one who pistol-whipped Young prior to shooting and killing MacPhail.

Dorothy Ferrell and Harriet Murray also stated that Davis was again wearing a white shirt on the night in question. That Davis was the one who pistol-whipped Young prior to shooting and killing MacPhail. They even went as far as to say that Davis shot MacPhail a second time after he was on the ground severely wounded.

Coles then stated that Davis was wearing that white shirt the night in question. That Davis was the one who shot and killed MacPhail. However, Coles did admit that he argued with Young, but he stated that he was not the one who pistol-whipped Young. That it was all Davis who assaulted Young. On further cross-examination, Coles then admitted that he also owned a .38-caliber pistol, but Coles stated that he gave his .38-caliber pistol to someone else earlier that night that is in question.

In total, the prosecution called thirty-five witnesses to the witness stand.

The Defense Case

In the shooting of Cooper, Davis denied it. Davis also denied being the one who shot and killed MacPhail as well.

Davis even stated that saw Coles pistol-whipping Young and that Davis fled the scene prior to MacPhail being shot and murdered.

The defense team called six witnesses to the witness stand. Davis’s mother was one of these witnessed. She stated that Davis was at their home on August 19, 1989, and that he left to go to Atlanta to visit his sister around 9 pm.

Verdict & Sentencing

It only took two hours for the jury to deliberate. On August 28, 1991, Davis was found guilty of murder, possession of a firearm, obstructing the law enforcement officer, and aggravated assault.

The prosecution was seeking the death penalty during the sentencing proceedings for Davis’s murder conviction. After deliberating for seven hours on August 30, 1991, the jury came back with the death verdict.

Execution

After 20 years of being convicted of the murder of MacPhail, and two failed execution date attempts, Davis was finally executed on September 21, 2011, by lethal injection.

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