After more than two decades of legal appeals and delays, condemned inmate Troy Davis was executed late Wednesday night in Georgia for the 1989 shooting death of a police officer. His claims of innocence attracted growing international attention, but last-minute efforts to stay the execution were rejected.
Troy Davis had been scheduled to die by lethal injection Wednesday evening, but the execution was delayed while the U.S. Supreme Court considered a desperate, last-minute request from his lawyers - which the court eventually rejected, removing the final barrier to the execution.
Atlanta radio reporter Jon Lewis was an official witness to the execution. Afterwards, he spoke to reporters.
"The warden, while we were there, read the order from the Chatham county judge, asked Troy Davis if he had any statement, Davis made his statement. They ordered the procedure to go on," he explained. "He asked if he had a prayer first. There was no response, [the] warden stepped out of the death chamber and then it started."
Davis was convicted for killing Mark MacPhail in the city of Savannah, Georgia in 1989, after MacPhail rushed to the defense of a homeless man prosecutors say Davis was beating in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant. But doubts about his guilt grew after several witnesses stepped forward to change or even renounce their initial testimony. There was also no physical evidence linking Davis to the off-duty police officer's murder.
As Davis fought against the conviction, winning three separate reprieves from execution, he gained support both in the United States and around the world. Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Pope Benedict issued personal pleas on Davis's behalf, urging state authorities to spare his life.
But the Georgia pardons board turned down his appeal, earlier this week.
Davis maintained his innocence until the end. Lewis described Davis' final moments.
"I don't believe he did have a last meal and I don't believe he made a final statement when he was being given the opportunity to record one. But he did make the statement, as we said, while he was strapped to the chair, strapped to the gurney, and again addressed directly to the MacPhail family first to let them know that he said, [claimed] he was innocent," said Lewis.
Amnesty International immediately criticized Davis's execution, calling it a "catastrophic failure of the justice system."