Funeral service held for executed US man

Friends and family of Troy Davis honour 42-year-old put to death despite pleas of innocence.

    Georgia Pardons Board denied clemency for Davis, but supporters continued to rally for the death row inmate [AFP]

    More than 1,000 family members and supporters gathered in the US state of Georgia to say farewell to Troy Davis, who insisted until his execution that he was innocent.

    Sent to death row 20 years ago as a convicted cop killer, Troy Davis was celebrated on Saturday as "martyr and foot soldier".

    After four years of appeals, courts ultimately upheld his death sentence, despite emotional pleas for his life from thousands across the globe in what became the most high-profile US execution in a decade.

    Questions raised by Davis' lawyers garnered support from dignitaries such as former President Jimmy Carter and Pope Benedict XVI. The night he was executed, protests were held from Washington to Paris and Ghana.

    Davis, a 42-year-old African-American, was executed on September 21 for the 1989 slaying of Mark MacPhail, a white off-duty police officer in Savannah. MacPhail's family and prosecutors say they are still confident Davis was guilty.

    Activists and Davis supporters highlighted considerable doubt about his 1991 murder conviction, but an international campaign to spare his life fell short, prompting an outcry from the European Union and elsewhere.

    The funeral on Saturday at Jonesville Baptist Church in Savannah opened with a slideshow of photos of Davis in his blue-trimmed prison uniform with his mother, sister and other family members.

    Blue and white roses were placed on the casket because of Davis' love for the Dallas Cowboys professional football team.

    "He transformed a prison sentence into a pulpit,'' the Rev Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, said in his eulogy on Saturday. "He turned death row into a sanctuary.''

    A song by the Billboard-charting gospel singer Dietrick Haddon got the crowd so excited that ushers walked the aisles stopping people from taking video and photos with their cell phones.

    During a call-and-response litany at the funeral, the congregation chanted in unison: "We pray to the Lord for our souls and the soul of Troy Davis, martyr and foot soldier".

    'We are still fighting'

    The service, which lasted three-and-a-half hours, took on a political tone, with speakers calling for an end to capital punishment.

    "Troy's last words that night were he told us to keep fighting until his name is cleared in Georgia,'' said Benjamin Jealous, head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, a leading civil rights group.

    "But most important, keep fighting until the death penalty is abolished and this can never be done to anyone else.''

    Amnesty International USA executive director Larry Cox hailed the worldwide support for Davis' cause, adding it was a "chilling violation of human rights by the government to deliberately kill a prisoner".

    The group, which worked for years to exonerate Davis, urged its supporters worldwide to remember Davis on Saturday by wearing black armbands and "I am Troy Davis" t-shirts.

    "This was called justice. When other people in other places are forced to wait and watch while others prepare to kill them it has another name. It is called torture," Cox told the congregation.

    "We are still fighting and we also will never stop until we have won, until we have wiped from this country forever a practice that does not stop violence but is violence, that does not serve justice but mocks justice, and does not protect the innocent but sometimes kills the innocent.

    "If you thought you saw us fighting to save Troy Davis - now that we've been inspired by Troy Davis - you ain't seen nothing yet."

    At a memorial on Friday evening, supporters of Davis remembered him as a gentleman who faced his execution with grace and dignity.

    Davis, who was executed by lethal injection, had asked forgiveness until the end for his accusers and executioners.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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