Thousands attend funeral of executed convict Troy Davis
Oct 1, 2011, 12:12 p.m.
By Matthew Bigg
SAVANNAH, Georgia (Reuters) - Thousands of people packed a church in the state of Georgia on Saturday for the funeral of Troy Davis, who was executed for the murder of a police officer in a case that drew international attention because of claims by his advocates that he was innocent.
The service at Jonesville Baptist Church in the coastal city of Savannah reflected a determination by his family, civil rights leaders and activists to turn his execution last week into a renewed campaign against the death penalty.
"Troy ... told us to keep on fighting until his name is finally cleared and Georgia admits what Georgia has done," Benjamin Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said at the service.
"Troy's last words were to keep on fighting until the death penalty is abolished and this (the execution) can never be done to anyone else," Jealous said.
Many in the church wore "I am Troy Davis" T-shirts and speakers praised Davis as being an inspiration to his family, friends and other death row inmates.
Davis, 42, was put to death by lethal injection on September 21 at a prison in central Georgia for the murder of police officer Mark MacPhail in 1989. His execution was delayed by more than four hours as the U.S. Supreme Court considered whether to issue a stay.
Davis went to his death saying he was innocent, according to journalists who witnessed the execution.
Controversy at home and abroad about the execution rekindled intense debate about the use of the death penalty in the United States.
The case provoked protests and an online petition accumulated nearly 1 million signatures.
France and the Council of Europe called for a stay of execution and hundreds rallied outside the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification prison on the night of the execution as well as elsewhere in the United States and in Europe.
Amnesty International, which campaigns against the death penalty, said the case received more attention than any it had seen in the United States in years.
MacPhail was shot and killed outside a Burger King restaurant in Savannah, Georgia, as he went to the aid of a homeless man who was being beaten. MacPhail's family said Davis was guilty and supported the execution.
Since Davis' conviction, seven of nine witnesses changed or recanted their testimony, some said they were coerced by police to testify against him and some said another man committed the crime. No physical evidence linked Davis to the killing.
(Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Xavier Briand)