Catholic, other groups mourn executions in Georgia, Texas

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Catholic and other groups mourned the executions Sept. 21 of Troy Davis in Georgia and of Lawrence Brewer in Texas.

Davis, 42, was put to death for his conviction in the 1989 murder of off-duty Savannah, Ga., police officer Mark MacPhail. Brewer, 44, an admitted white supremacist, was executed for his role in the 1998 race-fueled murder of James Byrd Jr., who was dragged for miles from the back of a pickup truck.

“The Catholic Mobilizing Network was hopeful those in positions of power and leadership would honor the dignity of all persons yesterday and exercise mercy for Troy Davis and Lawrence Brewer,” said a Sept. 22 statement issued by the group. “The executions of Davis and Brewer should remind us that racism is still a major issue in this country, and that our work to end the use of the death penalty should include work toward racial justice,” the statement said.

Davis’ case drew worldwide attention. The execution was delayed for four hours while the U.S. Supreme Court heard, and ultimately rejected, an emergency appeal for a stay of execution.

On Sept. 20, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole rejected a clemency request from Davis’ lawyers, and a day later it ruled out a polygraph test to keep Davis out of the death chamber. Davis maintained his innocence throughout, including his remarks to MacPhail’s family moments before his execution.

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta and retired Bishop J. Kevin Boland of Savannah had asked the Georgia panel Sept. 12 to stop the clock ticking toward Davis’ execution.

“The death penalty is irreversibly wrong when there is an execution of a person who may possibly be innocent. The conviction and death sentence of Mr. Davis was based on testimony of key witnesses and did not result from physical evidence,” the prelates said.

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