Troy Davis: Is the Death Penalty Justice or Murder?

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For 20 years, death row inmate Troy Davis maintained that he's an innocent man. Yet, just after 11 p.m. Wednesday, he was executed by lethal injection.

Earlier, there seemed to be some hope for Davis and his supporters.

At 7 p.m. -- the intended time of his death -- a crowd outside the Jackson, Ga., prison where he was being held erupted in cheers.

The execution was delayed for a fifth time, due to a last-minute plea for the Supreme Court to intervene.

But about four hours later, the justices rejected Davis' appeal, and the execution went forward. At 11:08 p.m. Troy Anthony Davis was pronounced dead.

A Long Journey

Davis, 42, was described by family pastor Rev. Raphael Warnock as a "man of deep faith" who considered his decades-long fight a "spiritual journey."

Davis was convicted in 1991 of killing off-duty Georgia police officer Mark MacPhail.

The execution of Troy Davis has added fuel to the fiery death penalty debate. Christians are on both sides of the issue.

CBN News spoke with Regent University School of Law professor Bradley Jacob about capital punishment, its purpose and the controversy.  Click play to watch.

Eyewitness testimony was primarily the deciding factor. But that evidence was called into question over the years after seven of nine key witnesses recanted their statements.

"The incident that night was not my fault. I did not have a gun," Davis said in the death chamber Wednesday before the process began.

He urged his family to keep praying and, "Look deeper in this case so that you can really find the truth."

"(To the MacPhails) I did not personally kill your son, father and brother. I am innocent," Davis added.

He then turned to those about to take his life saying, "May God have mercy on your soul."

The Chance for Peace

Despite public skepticism, then prosecutor Spencer Lawton has stood behind his case. So have the MacPhails.

Mark MacPhail Jr. told CBS News he's certain Davis is "the man who killed my father." He was only 2 months old when his father died.

The family saw delay after delay in getting the justice they felt they deserved. Davis had 11 court hearings after the guilty verdict.

"I'd like to have some peace now," MacPhail's mother Anneliese told CNN after the Supreme Court decision. "I lost my son. The father of my grandchildren. And I have been very hurt and very upset with all these things that have been going on for years."

"I'm so worn out from all this pulling back and forth," she added.

Attorneys representing Davis maintain that the case surrounding his death sentence is full of holes.

The case dates back to 1989, when Officer MacPhail was shot as he tried to stop the beating of a homeless man.

Davis was there, but always denied being the killer. Witnesses say they were pressured by police to put Davis away. 

Still, his request this week for clemency and to take a lie detector test were denied.

Death Penalty: Murder or Justice?

Guilty or not, this case has gained worldwide attention, leading to criticism of capital punishment and how death penalty cases are handled.

"The gospel that Christians proclaim is a gospel of mercy, love and forgiveness," a group of Georgia Catholic bishops wrote in a letter to the state board. "We believe that the death penalty is not compatible with the gospel."

"The common good and public security can be achieved in other ways," they added. "The gospel calls us to proclaim the sacredness of human life under all circumstances."

Amnesty International, the NAACP, former President Jimmy Carter, and Pope Benedict XVI were among the nearly 1 million supporters rallying to get Davis off death row.

Now that Davis is dead, many are wondering what will be done to continue the fight for his case and others like it.

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