Troy Davis executed as final plea fails

CONVICTED murderer Troy Davis has been executed after the US Supreme Court rejected an eleventh-hour appeal to prevent Georgia authorities from executing him for the murder of an off-duty police officer.

The court did not comment on its order, four hours after receiving the last-ditch request.

The filing by Davis’s lawyers came after state officials refused to grant Davis a reprieve in the face of calls for clemency from former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI and others.

The high court previously granted Davis a stay of execution in 2008 and ordered a court hearing the following year to give Davis a chance to establish his innocence. A federal judge said Davis failed to do so, and the justices refused to review that finding.

Meanwhile in Texas, a white supremacist gang member has been put to death for the infamous 1998 dragging death slaying of a black man.

Crowds outside the Jackson, Georgia prison erupted with cheers shortly after the scheduled 7pm (0900 AEST) time for Davis’s lethal injection to begin upon rumours that the Supreme Court had stayed the execution.

But joy turned to confusion as it emerged that there had been no reprieve and CNN and MSNBC reported that the state of Georgia was simply delaying the execution until the top US court announced its decision.

The last-gasp bid to stay Davis’s execution has earlier been rejected twice at state level and the five-member Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles on Tuesday turned down his bid for clemency.

Lawyers for Davis had cited new ballistics evidence and alleged misleading testimony had been used to convict him over the 1989 killing of off-duty policeman Mark MacPhail.

Davis has escaped three previous dates with death in a racially charged case in the US Deep South that has dragged on for more than two decades but on Wednesday the 42-year-old appeared to be out of legal options.

As his last hours ticked away, an upbeat and prayerful Davis turned down an offer for a special last meal as he met with friends, family and supporters.

MacPhail’s family insisted Davis was guilty and several of them were scheduled to witness him die.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for US President Barack Obama said he will not intervene in the Davis case, because it was “not appropriate” to become involved in specific state cases.

“Dating back to his time in the Illinois State Senate, President Obama has worked to ensure accuracy and fairness in the criminal justice system, especially in capital punishment cases,” Press Secretary Jay Carney said ahead of the planned execution.

“However, it is not appropriate for the president of the United States to weigh in on specific cases like this one, which is a state prosecution.”

In Texas, white supremacist Lawrence Russell Brewer has been executed for the murder of James Byrd Jr in 1998.

Mr Byrd 49, was chained to the back of a pickup truck and pulled to his death along a bumpy asphalt road in one of the most grisly hate crime murders in recent Texas history.

Brewer, 44, was asked if he had any final words, to which he replied: “No. I have no final statement.”

A single tear hung on the edge of his right eye.

He was pronounced dead at 6:21pm (0921 AEST), 10 minutes after the lethal drugs began flowing into his arms, both covered with intricate black tattoos.

Brewer’s parents and two of Byrd’s sisters were in attendance.

Appeals to the courts for Brewer were exhausted and no last-day attempts to save his life were filed.

Besides Brewer, John William King, now 36, also was convicted of capital murder and sent to death row for Byrd’s death, which shocked the nation for its brutality.

King’s conviction and death sentence remain under appeal. A third man, Shawn Berry, 36, received a life prison term.

“One down and one to go,” Billy Rowles, the retired sheriff who first investigated the horrific scene, said.

“That’s kind of cruel but that’s reality.”

Byrd’s sister, Clara Taylor, said someone from her brother’s family needed to be present to watch Brewer die so she was among witnesses in the death chamber.

“He had choices,” she said, referring to Brewer. “He made the wrong choices.”

While the lethal injection wouldn’t compare to the horrible death her brother endured, “Knowing you’re going to be executed, that has to be a sobering thought,” she said.

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