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Page Pate is interviewed about the Troy Davis execution

On Tuesday, September 22nd, Page Pate joined Denis O’Hayer on WABE’s “All Things Considered” to answer questions about the Troy Davis death penalty case. Page discussed the legal options left to Davis only one day before his scheduled execution.

Two weeks earlier, before Davis’ clemency hearing at the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, Page had explained that if that hearing failed, there would not be much left for Davis to do. Though some board members had changed since an earlier clemency hearing, he predicted that the bid would probably not be successful because the board had already rejected clemency based on the same evidence. The board rejected the request.

Two weeks after that rejection, Page suggested that Davis’ chances were not good given the late date and his limited legal avenues. His best chance had been a hearing in a Savannah federal court that had been ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court. In that hearing, Davis had an opportunity to prove himself innocent, and the court heard from new witnesses and considered his new claims of innocence. The judge ultimately ruled that Davis had not sufficiently proven his innocence and did not overturn his conviction.

As Page explained, “It’s virtually impossible for someone who has been convicted and sentenced to death to prove their innocence many years later. The real question should be, ‘do we still have a doubt?’ And I think from looking at this case … there are enough doubts for this execution not to go forward. But unfortunately, there is no other legal mechanism to make that happen.”

Page predicted that Davis’ lawyers would likely seek a final stay, either from the Georgia Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court, or both, but that he did not expect that to be successful. However, he said, the Davis case may strengthen public opposition to the death penalty in Georgia.

“[Opponents of the death penalty] can now point to a case where a person who is arguably innocent has been executed in Georgia … I think this will be the first time in Georgia where people can credibly say we may be killing an innocent man … maybe it’s a gut check. How comfortable are we, as citizens of Georgia, that our state may tomorrow execute someone who may be innocent of the crime they were convicted of . . . it’s an uncomfortable feeling that I think a lot of people in this state—and really a lot of people around the world—have about this case.”

Davis was executed late Wednesday night after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his final request for a stay of execution.