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Troy Davis Executed for Killing Cop

Aired September 21, 2011 - 22:59   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. We're expecting word any moment now that Troy Davis has been executed. We have not received that word yet. A short time ago, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a last-minute appeal by Davis' team of attorneys. He was set to die by lethal injection at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Then about 30 minutes ago we got the decision, the final decision from the highest court in the land, his appeals have run out.

The large crowd that's gathered in support of Davis outside the prison is still there. We've heard some chants of, "We are Troy Davis." We've heard some singing, many of them praying now for him and holding signs of support.

This case goes back in 1989 when Davis was arrested for the shooting death of an off-duty Savannah police officer named Mark MacPhail, a son, a husband, and father of two. He was providing security for a Burger King when a fight broke out in the parking lot. Officer MacPhail rushed to the scene to investigate, was shot and killed.

Two years later in 1991 Troy Davis was convicted for that murder based on eyewitness testimony but since Davis' trial, seven of the nine witnesses against him either recanted or changed their testimony, raising doubts that have gone global.

However, the DA in the case and the families -- the victim's families have insisted all along that Davis got a fair trial and the decision was the right one.

We are now joined -- we continue to have that live shot outside the Jackson, Georgia, prison, which we'll continue to show you, if we can, maybe just put that up on the screen. We also have the scene outside the Supreme Court that we've been watching, where protesters have also gathered.

Joining us now -- also with us is senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and BJ Bernstein.

Jeff, in terms of the lethal injection, the process, it -- that itself is a process filled with controversy.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: That's right. You know lethal injection was developed as a supposedly more humane alternative to electrocution and the gas chamber. But in recent years, lethal injection itself has become very controversial. It is not as simple a thing as a lot of people would assume to put someone to death intravenously.

Many of the states use what's known as the three-judge cocktail. That has been problematic. Some of the drugs that have been use ready not available in sufficient quantities.

This three-judge -- three-drug cocktail has been challenged as inhumane. In fact, the United States Supreme Court in a very controversial case in 2009 called Bays v. Reese addressed the issue of whether lethal injection was cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

And the court said, no, but it was a 5-3 decision, as I recall, and it is just -- it's -- it's in and of itself controversial and sometimes not so simple. Sometimes it takes a couple of minutes. Sometimes it can take half an hour. Sometimes it can take longer. So, you know, the fact that the execution may be beginning now -- I mean, I hate to be sort of macabre about this, but we don't know how long it's going to take.

COOPER: BJ, have you ever witnessed an execution?

B.J. BERNSTEIN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY/FORMER PROSECUTOR: I have not and I pray I never have to. I just think it -- there's so many emotions going on right now where you see Officer MacPhail's mother -- the interview you just did with her -- and you feel for her and her loss, and yet at the same time, we are about to take another person's life.

And, you know, there's been part of the controversy that people have talked about is -- again who shall live and who shall die, so to peak. Why is someone like the -- you know, Manson alive for life in California and yet Troy Davis is about to be put to death?

There's -- you know there was another execution tonight in the state of Texas of the white supremacist who drugged the man down the street and we didn't have that same outrage. So it brings up a lot of issues that I think this case is at the national forefront and may reopen the conversation about the death penalty and the appropriateness of it, and what are we really trying to accomplish.

Other countries, our Canadian friends are -- they don't have the death penalty. A lot of countries are scratching their head wondering why we're the land of the free that we are ruled by justice and have extraordinary protections and freedoms and yet, our government still can put someone to death.

COOPER: I want to show you a picture of the location where reporters just started to gather where there will be a press conference to announce when Troy Davis has been executed. Prison officials will come out and will make a statement.

Obviously, we will bring that to you live.

Jeff Toobin, do you really believe, though -- I mean this has certainly ignited a debate about the death penalty, but these debates have been going on now in this country for decades. Does this -- is this some sort of watershed event or will this change something?

TOOBIN: You know, I don't -- I don't really think so. Support for the death penalty today is around 60 percent, according to most polls. About 10 or 15 years ago, it was about 70 percent. Now that's down and a lot of the change in altitudes about the death penalty has to do with the fact that there's just less crime in the United States than there used to be.

You know in the early '90s, there were about 300 death sentences every year. Last year there were 112. In the mid -- the early '90s, at one year, 98 people are were executed. Last year, 46 people were executed.

I mean all the numbers are heading in that direction, but the movement for the absolute abolition of the death penalty is not really that strong in this country. Barack Obama is for the death penalty, most major political figurers are for the death penalty. It's not as big a political issue as it once was, but you know it doesn't look like it's disappearing any time soon.

COOPER: It does say a lot, Jeff, that this has taken 22 years since -- since the officer was killed, 1989 he was killed. I mean it -- two years later, Troy Davis was convicted of the crime, but that this debate has been going on over Troy Davis, really, ever since he was convicted 20 years ago.

TOOBIN: That's right. And I think one subject we haven't talked about too much tonight but is inseparable from the subject of the death penalty and that's the subject of race. You know that has been a huge thing with the death penalty in the United States. You know, a lot of people think that, you know, African-Americans are sentenced to death more often than whites are.

That's actually statistically not true, but what is true is that people who murder white people are sentenced to death much more often than people who murder black people. And this of course is an African-American, Troy Davis, who murdered a white police officer, and blacks who murder whites are statistically sentenced to death most of all. And that's just a significant fact, I think, about the death penalty.

COOPER: Roland Martin is joining us actually outside the U.S. Supreme Court.

Roland, are there still a lot of people out there?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, absolutely. You got about 100 or so people here. They are gathered around listening to broadcasts on their cell phones. They are, of course, standing here waiting for the word when Troy Davis actually is put to death.

You've had a number of people who've come and gone, and folks -- you know, lighting candles, they have been praying, it is extremely quiet out here. Not much noise at all. Also, you look over my left shoulder, you got about seven Supreme Court security guards who are standing out here as well. You don't have a significant police presence along this street but again, folks carrying signs, wearing, "I'm Troy Davis" T-shirts. Again, all -- you know, expressing their viewpoint.

And Anderson, if I could touch on a couple of things that Jeff said, I think it is important. There is no doubt that people have conflicted feelings when it comes to the death penalty, when they see a case like this, anger with the Casey Anthony, people say, how dare she get away with that, but then you look at this particular case.

But also, I think what's important, it's also a generational issue and what we have seen consistently is that when you've seen these individuals, especially in Texas, being let out of prison after serving 20, 25 years, it begins to raise a lot of questions in people's minds as to how folks are convicted.

And so I do believe that we are in a situation where one or two cases could certainly be the tipping point to cause a different generation's reaction when it comes to the death penalty and so no one case I don't think can do it, but I think as Bonnie said earlier, this generation never has really had that strong, visceral reaction when it comes to these type of cases. But I do think that there's a lot more awareness and people are making some serious -- you know, raising some serious concerns.

At one point, I tweeted earlier, Anderson, that's this. If you care about this case, if you care about justice, why do we, as Americans, try to get out of jury duty, because we always say, oh, no, I don't want to have do that but then we question a jury's decision.

This should tell any American, if you care about justice, don't try to run out on jury duty. You need to say, hey, I'm willing to serve because I might be the difference maker as to whether someone who is innocent or guilty being put to death.

COOPER: BJ, at what point will we know -- how soon after the execution does word come out?

BERNSTEIN: Pretty -- right afterwards. I mean, someone from the Department of Corrections will come out and make the announcement. We'll know shortly after it occurs.

COOPER: David Mattingly, you are standing by awaiting the final word from the prison. Where are you in location in -- where is that scene which we see which is a podium in relation to where the protesters and those keeping vigil have been?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Well, all those shots you've seen of the heavily armed prison, all the -- the police in riot gear outside the gates, we are just on the other side of the gates now, setting up a podium, expecting the inevitable announcement from a prison official once the execution is complete.

I have been walking around on the ground here looking at groups of demonstrators in the areas that they have been designated here by the prison officials and I have to say everyone appears to be emotionally and physically weary at this point. Everyone very quiet, not nearly the spirited group that we saw several hours ago.

They know that the cause that they were fighting for, to have Troy Davis' sentence commuted or at least to have him exonerated, or perhaps even have him exonerated, they know that now that they have failed, there is no other recourse for them to take. They all seem to be just waiting for the inevitable word here.

COOPER: We are going to take a short break. Our coverage continues in just a moment.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At this time the media witnesses will be coming out to the give their firsthand account of what happened during the execution. The coroner's van will be coming out very shortly. It will be a black van. Media will be able to move up to give video of that van.

At this time, we may have some people who were at the actual execution who may come out to do interviews. We will wait for them to come out and we will be sitting in the same area if they do choose to do interviews. But again, the time of death is 11:08.

COOPER: There you have it. Troy Davis has been executed. He is dead. Time of execution was 11:08, four minutes ago.

Joining us again on the phone, David Mattingly. He's outside the prison where the execution took place. In Washington, senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeff, I'm not sure really what to say.

TOOBIN: It's somber. You know there's a tradition in American prisons that on days of executions, the prisoners don't speak much to each other. That it's a very subdued, very mournful day in the whole day. Everybody knows what's happening.

And you know, you can see why. You hear this news and it's just somber and scary business. And --

COOPER: Let's just look at a picture outside the Supreme Court, no sound -- talking or anything, let's just listen to the sound from the Supreme Court.


COOPER: That's the -- the scene outside the Supreme Court where a number of people have gathered. Just standing in silence, most likely praying, thinking about what has just occurred. We don't know if the family of Troy Davis was actually in the room at the time of the execution. We anticipate hearing from some of the media witnesses, five members of the media are allowed to witness these executions, and they often will come afterward to talk about it.

But again, for a case that has been followed now for many years, for many people around the world, it has come to an end with the execution of Troy Davis.

We're going to take a short break. Our coverage continues in a moment.


JON LEWIS, WSB RADIO/EXECUTION EYEWITNESS: But also said that he did not take their son, father, brother. He said to them to dig deeper into this case to find out the truth. He asked his family and his family and friends to keep praying, to keep working, and keep the faith.

And the he said to the prison staff, the ones he said who are going to take my life, he said to them, may God have mercy on your souls, and his last words were to them, may God bless your souls.

Then he put his head back down, the procedure began and about 15 minutes later it was over.



LEWIS: Just pretty much they picked me. Well, we'll all do it but -- any questions?

COOK: If you want more exact quotes, we can give them to you.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: That would be great.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In front of the mike.

COOK: OK. I'm Ronda Cook with the "Atlanta Journal Constitution." He said the incident that night was not my fault. I did not have a gun. And that's when he told his friends to continue to fight and look deeper into this case so you can really find the truth. For those about to take my life, may God have mercy on your souls, may God bless your souls.

And to the MacPhail family, he said, of course, I did not personally kill your son, father and brother. I am innocent.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You've been to an execution. You've been to a few before. How, if at all, was this different?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was more security than usual at this execution.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was more security than usual at this execution but otherwise, it went as other executions have gone here. There was tightened security but the prison folks here are professionals and they've done this before. And it went pretty much as planned. I have the execution starting at around 10:53 and he was declared dead at 11:08.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How did he look? Was he talking to (INAUDIBLE), the loved ones?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was talking very quickly. And as my colleagues have said, he was defiant until the very end, and maintaining his innocence until the very end. He spoke quickly. He looked at one of his attorneys who sitting on the second row. He appeared to glance at the attorney who nodded at him.

Mark MacPhail was sitting in the front row and he was looking at -- Mark was looking at Mr. Davis the entire time, it seemed. And once he was declared dead, we were ushered out.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How would you describe the mood?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somber. How else? It was just a somber, somber, somber event. We were all waiting for about four, four and a half hours in the prison with no -- no details on what was happening. And then when we were ushered into the prison itself, we knew that -- we assumed at least that the Supreme Court had rejected his final appeal.


COOK: We saw two. Officer's brother (INAUDIBLE). And Mark MacPhail -- Mark MacPhail --


COOK: No, Mark MacPhail leaned forward through the whole process and his uncle, William MacPhail, sat back and neither seemed to move at all.

LEWIS: They spent the entire time just staring at Troy Davis, never turned their heads, never did anything but stare ahead. And then when it was over, as they were leaving, they hugged somebody and they seemed to smile about it. So for the MacPhail family, at least, they seemed to get some satisfaction from what happened.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Who was there from the MacPhail family?

COOK: Pardon?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Who was there again from the MacPhail --

COOK: Mark MacPhail, Jr., his son, and his -- and the officer's brother, William MacPhail.


COOK: Beg your pardon?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You were talking about what Troy Davis was saying until the end.

LEWIS: He was saying he was innocent. He said to the MacPhail family, again, that he was not the one responsible for what -- he was not personally responsible for what happened that night. He said that he did not have a gun. He said that he was not the one who took their son, father, brother, and he said he was innocent. And that was to the end.

He lifted his head up, he was strapped to gurney when we walked in. And went the warden asked if he had to make a statement, he lifted his head up and looked directly at the front row, which is where the MacPhail family and friends were sitting, and said I want to address the MacPhail family and made sure they heard what he had to say, which was that he claimed he was innocent.

He was not responsible for what happened that night in 1989. He did not have a gun. He was not personally responsible for the death of Officer MacPhail. I mean, I'm paraphrasing, but this is what he was saying. Then he addressed his friends and family, telling them to keep praying, keep working, keep digging into this case.

And then he said to the staff, he said to the people who are about to take my life, may God have mercy on your souls and may God bless your souls, and then that was it.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did the MacPhail family have any kind of --

LEWIS: We couldn't see their faces, they were seeing in the first row, so we did not see how they reacted to at all. All I can say is watching them while this was going on, they never turned their heads, they never waivered the entire time. They just stared at him through the glass as the execution was taking place.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The execution was delayed for about four hours. Would you know if he was -- if Troy Davis was strapped in the gurney the entire time?

LEWIS: I have no idea. We weren't there.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I'm sorry. Did you see whether or not Davis's family (INAUDIBLE)?

LEWIS: I didn't see anybody. Just the attorney for him.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Which attorney was there?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Brian Kammer was there?

LEWIS: No, it was Ewart. Jason Ewart.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you know whether Travis refused his last meal or anything about his last meal?

LEWIS: That I don't know. I don't believe he did have a last meal and I don't believe he made a final statement when he was going to be given the opportunity to record one, but he did make the statement, as we've 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 he was innocent.

COOK: He did not -- he did not eat his dinner. And he did not take the Ativan.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he -- participate in a prayer? I know that's something they offered --

LEWIS: He was offered but he did not, and then they started the execution. He blinked rapidly for some period of time and then he went out. They checked him for consciousness. Warden came back into the death chamber, went back out again. Then they started the lethal mixture and again, the whole thing took about 15 minutes, 11:08, the warden came in and pronounced him dead.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he make the final statement on the coach --


LEWIS: He was strapped to gurney when he came in so everything that happened, he was already strapped to the gurney. We came in, the warden was in the room with him, another prison official, a medical attendant plus one that was off to the side, and then Troy Davis strapped to the gurney.

The warden read 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 asked if he had a prayer first. There was no response. The warden stepped out of the death chamber and then it started.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was Troy Davis alone? (INAUDIBLE) is there anyone in the room?

LEWIS: Some member of the medical staff informs there and also somebody else who was out of our eyesight off to the side so there were two other people in the death chamber with him. One was a medical attendant who was monitoring the thing the whole time, monitoring the lethal injection, and then somebody off to the side.

Once the procedure was over, two doctors came in. Both used stethoscopes. One checked vital signs, eyes, pulse and the like, and then they nod in agreement and that's when the warden pronounced him dead.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Obviously this is a highly publicized case. (INAUDIBLE) execution. What was it like to be a witness for this execution in particular?

LEWIS: Somber. I mean, none of these are easy. It was very quiet, much more so. The only sound where we were sitting was the sound of the air conditioner. People weren't moving. I mean, it was not even some casual movement. I think everybody in there understood the enormity of what was going on and acted accordingly. It was very, very quiet, very respectful and very somber.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he make any physical gestures?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The lethal injection started at 10:53. He turned his head very slightly to his left the same minute that the lethal injection started. The next minute, I have him blinking his eyes, a little more -- a little more rapidly for a very brief few seconds.

I have him squeezing his eyes shut for maybe a second and then opening them again. And then at 10:54, about two minutes after the -- about a minute after lethal injection started, appearing to yawn and then around 10:55, started slowing down and 10:58, which is five minutes after lethal injection started they did a consciousness check to make sure he was unconscious before they start the next two -- the next two lethal injection drugs that paralyze his body and stop his heart.

And after that, there was very little -- there was no movement, except for slower breathing.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What do you understand is going to happen to Mr. Davis' body now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw a Butts County Coroner truck pull up to the death chamber minutes before we walked in. So I'm assuming it is going to go out to the Butts County coroner. Thank you.

COOPER: And there you have the word from a number of media observers who traditionally are allowed into witness these executions and then report back to other members of the media.

Troy Davis executed tonight by lethal injection, declared dead 20 minutes ago, at 11:08 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. When asked if he had anything to say Davis lifted his head up off the gurney, addressed the MacPhail family, said he was sorry for their loss, but he was innocent.

Asked his friends and family to keep working on the case, according to the media members, his family members were not present, only one of his attorneys was. The entire lethal injection process, they say, took about 15 minutes. The warden pronounced him dead at 11:08.

The 29th inmate put to death by lethal injection in the state of Georgia.

We are going to have continuing coverage, we're going to take a short break. We'll be right back.