Meet the real Georgia killers

georgia board of pardonsMeet the five people responsible for the death of Troy Davis – the Georgia Board of Pardons. We don’t know how they voted. It is possible that one or two of these people is innocent. As a group, however, they conspired and announced their death sentence. Troy Davis will be killed on Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at 7:00PM.

(Update: Troy Davis was executed by the State of Georgia and pronounced dead at 11:08PM. Witnesses reported that his last words from gurney with the needle already in were addressed to the victim’s family and his prison guards, “I’d like to address the MacPhail family. Let you know, despite the situation you are in, I’m not the one who personally killed your son, your father, your brother. I am innocent. The incident that happened that night is not my fault. I did not have a gun. All I can ask … is that you look deeper into this case so that you really can finally see the truth. I ask my family and friends to continue to fight this fight. For those about to take my life, God have mercy on your souls. And may God bless your souls.”)

Troy Davis was convicted in 1989 for the murder of Savannah of off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail. No physical evidence linking Davis to the murder was presented at the trial. No gun was ever found. Seven of the nine witnesses in his trial have since recanted their testimony – several later testified they had been coerced by the police and the prosecution. An eighth witness, Redd Coles, has admitted that he was the killer.

“Calls for Davis to be spared execution have been made by numerous dignitaries, including former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, former FBI Director William Sessions, former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher and Larry Thompson, the former deputy U.S. attorney general. Davis’ advocates, including Amnesty International and the NAACP, have used social media to rally worldwide support. Last week, Davis’ supporters presented the parole board with the names of more than 663,000 people asking that Davis be granted clemency.” –

The Troy Davis case has been problematic since the beginning and is a poster child of what can go wrong, even in modern day Georgia, when political pressure to convict in a police shooting meets a poor black defendant. (Wikipedia has a quick overview.)

“This has been an extraordinary legal saga since the murder in 1989, and two years ago the United States Supreme Court did something it almost never does – instructed a District Court in Georgia to take another look at the case, hold a hearing,” Toobin said.
A Savannah judge did just that, Toobin said, and issued a 170-page opinion saying that, despite the recanted testimony, “there is no substantial doubt cast on the verdict as far as this judge could tell.”  – CNN News Blogs

The argument of whether the death penalty is just or effective aside, no one should be sentenced to death when there are such questions of guilt. Commuting the sentence to life in prison would hardly have been much of a compromise for society. The members of the Georgia Board of Pardons, all appointed by Sonny Perdue, may have done their political duties, but should never sleep well again. This is not justice.

The following is from the Georgia Board of Pardons web site:

Chairman James E. Donald

Chairman James E. Donald (click here for his facebook page) began his term as Chairman of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles July 1, 2010.  Chairman Donald was elected to the position by the Board Members in June.

Chairman Donald is the former Commissioner of the Department of Corrections, and was the driving force behind groundbreaking transformations in one of the State’s largest departments. As Commissioner, Mr. Donald oversaw the fifth largest prison system in the nation, some 200,000 felons in prison or on probation, 15,000 employees, of whom 10,000 are sworn peace officers, and an annual budget of more than $1.2 billion.

Mr. Donald’s commitment to Governor Perdue’s vision of a safer, healthier, better educated and best-managed Georgia has resulted in several revolutionary initiatives. Under his leadership, relocation of the Corrections Headquarters and its Training Academy to Tift Campus in Forsyth, Georgia began. This decision will save Georgia taxpayers $4 million annually. Additionally, his decisions to realign and reduce staff positions in the central office, combine many facilities and probation support functions, and transform medical support practices are estimated to have saved taxpayers over $16 million.

Also, Mr. Donald opened and began operating seven new 200-bed Pre-Release Centers, 10 new Faith and Character-based dormitories, six new “non-resident” Day Reporting Centers, and added over 2,000 new beds for transition centers or work release programs.

Prior to his appointment as the Commissioner of Corrections in 2004, Mr. Donald retired as a Major General of the United States Army Forces Command. He earned the Bronze Star for his bold leadership as a Task Force Commander with the 101st Airborne “Screaming Eagles” during Gulf War I. He also served as Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Pacific, Assistant Division Commander to the 25th Infantry Division, and Director of Operations/J3 U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii.

Mr. Donald is a native of Jackson, Mississippi, and graduated from the University of Mississippi with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and History. He earned his Master of Public Administration from the University of Missouri. He is an avid supporter of his church and community activities, and serves as a member of several government and civic boards.

Vice Chairman Albert Murray

Vice Chairman Albert Murray was appointed to the Board on May 15, 2010, by Governor Sonny Perdue.  He was elected by the Board to the position of Vice Chairman in June and began serving in that role on July 1, 2010.

Mr. Murray began his service to troubled youth in his native state of Tennessee, including being appointed to assistant commissioner of juvenile services for the state of Tennessee. His successful career in Tennessee resulted in his appointment as the first commissioner of the newly created Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority in 1996. During 2003, Mr. Murray served as Deputy Commissioner of Programs for the Alabama Department of Corrections.

Mr. Murray was sworn in as Commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice on January 23, 2004. He ended his tenure May 14, 2010, as the longest serving juvenile justice commissioner in Georgia’s history. Included in his many accomplishments as Commissioner of DJJ, is a SACS accredited school program, new and strengthened community programs, a newly created victims advocacy component and expanded training opportunities for staff. A major accomplishment as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice was the completion of all requirements for the release of the agency’s memorandum of agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice on May 5, 2009, ending eleven years of federal oversight.

Mr. Murray has a wife, Connie, and two adult daughters, Andrea and Camille.

Member Terry Barnard

Member and former State Representative Terry E. Barnard served nearly 16 years in the Georgia House of Representatives prior to being appointed to the State Board of Pardons and Parole. During his 8-term tenure, the Coastal Georgia Lawmaker faithfully served the state as a member of several key House Committees to include Appropriations, Natural Resources, Agriculture, Children and Youth, Rules and State Institutions and Property, where he served as the distinguished Chairman for 6 years.

Mr. Barnard joins the State Board of Pardons and Parole with a vast intuitional knowledge of the Georgia Department of Corrections from a legislative perspective. Passionate and persuasive, since 1994, Rep. Barnard shepherded every bill introduced into the Georgia Legislature that had any impact on the Department of Corrections.

In 1995-1996 Mr. Barnard guided through the Georgia House, the frame work for the State Sex Offenders Registry and Sexual Predators Review Board. Today with just a click of a mouse interested parties may see if a convicted sex offender is living in a neighborhood of interest.

Mr. Barnard is a native of Tattnall County having been born in Reidsville in 1957; he and his wife Susan make their home at Shellman Bluff on the Georgia Coast. He is a graduate of Atlantic Community College and has a strong background in business. He has owned and operated several businesses, among those a Real Estate Brokerage. With over 18 years of experience in the financial industry, he served as Vice President and Manager of First Citizens Bank of Reidsville, and as a regional marketing director for Green Tree Acceptance, a national mortgage lender.

He is involved in a local Baptist Church and takes part in many community events and activities.

Member Robert E. Keller

Member Robert E. Keller from Clayton County was appointed to the Board by Governor Sonny Perdue on January 3, 2007.

Mr. Keller served as executive counsel of the  Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia. He is the former chairman of that organization.   Before joining the Prosecuting Attorneys Council, he served as both assistant district attorney and district attorney of Clayton County. He also maintained a private practice from 1974-1977. Keller served as a member of the Georgia Board of Public Safety, the Board of Trustees of the Georgia Judicial Retirement System, the Georgia Code Revision Plan Committee and the Commission to Assess Crime Laboratory Needs into the 21st Century. He served as vice-chair of the Governor’s Commission on Certainty in Sentencing. Keller earned a bachelor’s degree from Birmingham Southern College and a law degree from Emory Law School. Mr. Keller brings a wealth of knowledge and understanding of the criminal justice system, and his reputation and credibility among the judiciary and prosecutors is highly admired.

Member L. Gale Buckner

Member L. Gale Buckner was appointed to the Board on January 1, 2005 by Governor Sonny Perdue. Ms. Buckner received her Bachelors  Degree from Georgia State University, and her Graduate Degree from Brenau University.

Ms. Buckner brings a broad base of experience to the Board. She started her career as a communications officer at the Chatsworth Police Department, rising to the level of Sergeant and was honored as Officer of the Year. She began her service with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in 1981 as an undercover operative, and specialized in corruption and white-collar crime cases, earning the Director’s Award for Outstanding Investigations in 1984. While at GBI, she also served as Director of Personnel facilitating the modernization of human resource projects, and as Director of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs coordinating legislative activities both with the Georgia General Assembly and with the U.S. Congress. She is a graduate of the 169th session of the FBI National Academy.

In 2000, Ms. Buckner was appointed Executive Director of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, Office of the Governor. Under her leadership, the agency administered $100 million annually in federal grant monies for Georgia’s criminal justice community, received three national awards for its State Analysis Center, and also served as Georgia’s Crime Victims Compensation Board which provides offender-generated dollars to the innocent victims of violent crime. Ms. Buckner coordinated criminal justice policy initiatives regarding offender reentry, victims services, and other public safety projects during her tenure.

During her distinguished career, Ms. Buckner has served as a member of many law enforcement associations and advisory boards including the National Criminal Justice Association, the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange, the International Association of Women Police, the National Center for Women and Policing, the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, the Georgia Child Fatality Review Panel, and the Georgia DARE Advisory Board. She is also a member of the Parole Association of Georgia, the Peace Officers Association of Georgia, and state and national Chiefs of Police Associations.

She is the recipient of the 2002 Distinguished Alumni Award from Georgia State University, and the 2001 Secretary of State Outstanding Leadership as a Georgia Woman in Public Safety Award. Ms. Buckner has worked in many arenas of the criminal justice system, and has a unique vantage which will enhance the implementation of the mission and vision of the Board.

19 thoughts on “Meet the real Georgia killers

  1. Karen Grainey

    Well said. It’s not over yet. Work is still being done to stop the execution. People are calling or emailing Savannah District Attorney Larry Chisolm demanding that he withdraw the death warrant. Mr. Chisolm has stated that it is beyond his power but Amnesty International seems to think otherwise. Here’s his contact information:
    Savannah District Attorney Larry Chisolm
    Phone: 912-652-7308; Fax: 912-652-7328

    Or send an email from the Amnesty Int’l website

  2. Monica Smith

    Killing a human being in cold blood is immoral.
    Triangulating the decision so no-one is directly responsible is also immoral.
    We set up artificial bodies (corporations) so individuals won’t be rendered impotent by their inevitable mistakes. However, killing in cold blood is not a mistake. So, the diffusion of responsibility is merely evidence of cowardice.
    Under our system, the final authority does rest with the people and when authority stands silent in the face of abuse, it becomes complicit. So, public officials who, like Pontius Pilate, exercise the popular intent, are not solely responsible, but they are responsible for taking the job and they are responsible if they don’t object to immoral legislation — as President Obama did to DADT. Cold blooded killing needs to be repealed. Raising false hopes of a possible reprieve is cruel; state sponsored executions are unusual. It is an exception the U.S. can do without.
    State-sponsored killing should be a central issue in our electoral campaigns.

  3. Frank Povah

    It amuses me, in a bizarre sort of way, that in a country where elected or would-be elected officials and representatives dare do nothing else but profess mindless subjugation to “Christian ideals” and its imagined dogma of “family values”, lest they be ignored by the “majority” of their fellow citizens, are quite happy to ignore the teachings of their god Jesus when it suits them and rely instead on the “words” of an older, more bloodthirsty deity, the creators of which the Jesus crowd once – and in some quarters still do – blamed for killing their supposedly gentler, more forgiving god.

  4. J. Morgan Willis

    I am not opposed to capital punishment in the cases of so many heinous murders, but where there is the slightest doubt, I cannot condone it. Why could the board not have commuted to life in prison without parole? Who is the real killer in this cop murder? Is he still out there or is he in custody?? Shame on the board, shame on all those who have pushed for this execution. There is no consistency in the decisions of judges and juries. This man had 22 years in prison, stepped up to the execution three or four times (cruel, cruel) before this last one. I have sympathy for the victim’s McPhail family, but they have no sympathy for the Davis family which has lived through this turmoil for 22 years. No one has won in this case.

    1. Lee Leslie Post author

      We have an aspect of our justice system that intertwines with politics. When district attorneys are elected and make expedient decisions to prosecute under pressure from other elected officials, the system becomes corrupted -- none of the political figures want to admit mistake. They are protected from their mistakes by non-political, but nonetheless political, elected justices who are answerable to politically appointed appeals court judges who are answerable to politically appointed supreme court justices. Leaving the final decision to a politically appointed board of pardons. The “independent judiciary” is faith based -- good people who must put personal political beliefs and party affiliation aside to act without bias. They must believe and act in our system of justice while having a higher standard for reasonable doubt than those of us unskilled and easily manipulated by headlines.

      We the people believe that our system is one based on the presumption of innocence -- we need to believe that it would be so, were we the ones on trial. In this case, we had people all through the system so committed to the issue of capital punishment that they failed on the human side. In this case, the highest standard was a political promise that we won’t admit doubt and certainly not a mistake.

      I don’t pretend to know all the details. I don’t pretend to know the law as those involved. I do know, that were I a juror, based on the published accounts of recantations, falsely or tainted presented evidence and the details of another who professed to have committed the crime, I have reasonable doubt. Hundreds of thousands of others have stated their reasonable doubt, what possible reason can be made that these people didn’t have enough doubt to commute the sentence other than politics and covering a two decade mistake?

      Were Troy Davis white or wealthy, this would not have happened in Georgia. I am ashamed.

  5. Cliff Green

    Hundreds of thousands of others have stated their reasonable doubt? Really? How many of them sat in the jury box and listened to the evidence?
    Jimmy Carter didn’t. Neither did Benedict XVI, William Sessions, Norman Fletcher nor Larry Thompson. And to my knowledge, no member of Amnesty International or the NAACP was selected for that panel.
    Look, philosophically questioning the morality of the death penalty is one thing; mis-stating facts in search of a pre-conceived notion is something else again.

  6. louisiana maritime lawyers

    We the people believe that our system is one based on the presumption of innocence – we need to believe that it would be so, were we the ones on trial.

    1. redneck liberal

      Why do folks like you always yell “prove it”? When you are offered evidence that would persuade any truly open-minded person, you still refuse to believe it because it if it contradicts your own preconceived, uninformed opinions. It was not up to those seeking to spare Troy’s life to offer ‘proof’ -- only that there was reasonable doubt as to veracity of the verdict. That is unarguable.

  7. Sunshine

    Really the blame is on the American people. More than half want t the death penalty. If it were abolished then no one would be put in the position of playing God. RIP Troy

  8. Cliff Green

    Lee, I gave you a short answer last night and I’m sorry.
    Let me make my position clear: I am no happier with the death penalty than you are.
    As you all know ( including you, redneck liberal, if you had read my post here last year), my complaint with the Troy Davis case was the cynical nature of Amnesty International’s involvement.
    You against the death penalty? Fine. Be my guest. But don’t go rummaging through musty files to find an old case where witnesses have died, memories have dimmed and evidence may have lost to support your argument. And while you’re looking around for a case with which to make your case, please, don’t try to find one in the South where a black man killed a white man so you can throw in the race card. Wow! Two for one!
    The AJC did a revealing timeline on the case the day after the execution. The Georgia Supreme Court unamiously affirmed Davis’ conviction and sentence on on February 25, 1993. It was not until May 13, 2004, more than eleven (11) years later, that another motion was filed in the case. Duh?
    Now, Lee, as to your assertion that the forensics were flawed. Scores of anti-death-penalty lawyers have studied and argued every aspect of this case for more than 20 years. They have taken it before dozens of courts and forums where thousands of hours of hearings were conducted. Be honest, if the ballistics were bad, don’t you think someone would have at least mentioned it in passing sometime before the very day Davis was to be executed?

  9. Jack deJarnette

    All arguments aside, too many people have been executed who were later deemed innocent by DNA evidence. If even one was executed wrongly that should be convincing enough that we should, from a moral perspective, cast it aside. It has also been adequately demonstrated that capital punishment is no deterent to criminal activity.

  10. Cliff Green

    My point exactly, Jack. The moral argument against the death penalty is the way to get rid of it, not torturing victims’ families for two decades or calling innocent people in the corrections system killers.

  11. Rev. Arthur Durnan

    Carry on, Great State of Georgia, Carry on! Murders will not decrease until it becomes much morew dangerous to be a murderer than to be the victim!


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