By Rusty Dornin
JACKSON, Georgia (CNN) — The U.S. Supreme Court granted a last-minute reprieve to a Georgia man fewer than two hours before he was to be executed for the 1989 slaying of an off-duty police officer.
Troy Anthony Davis, 39, has his execution stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Troy Anthony Davis learned that his execution had been stayed when he saw it on television, he told CNN via telephone in his first interview after the stay was announced.
He said he was “thankful to God” for the news that came during an emergency session the U.S. Supreme Court convened.
Davis said “everyone should pray” for the slain officer’s family.
The 39-year-old also said that he is “very grateful for everything that everyone is doing” for him and that he would “accept” whatever decision the Supreme Court rendered in the coming days about his case.
At the Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, a crowd of Davis’ supporters, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, erupted in cheers when Sharpton announced the stay. Some shouted “Hallelujah!”
Davis has long said he didn’t kill Mark MacPhail, a Savannah, Georgia, police officer, and the U.S. Supreme Court was the last option for Davis to have his execution postponed. It was scheduled to move forward at 7 p.m. ET.
Seven of the nine witnesses who initially testified that Davis was the killer have recanted. There was no physical evidence presented at his trial, and no weapon was found. But Davis’ petitions for a new trial have been denied. Learn more about capital punishment in the United States »
The MacPhail family said they were angry about the stay.
“I am angry as can be. I’m disgusted. It should have been over by now,” MacPhail’s mother, Anneliese MacPhail, told CNN. “Nobody thinks about what the victims’ family has gone through again and again.
“I was hoping it would be over today,” she said.
Earlier, she said, “There is no possibility he’s innocent, not according to what’s been said in court.”
MacPhail’s sister Anneli Reaves was outside the prison. She said that if witnesses now say that they lied when they testified that Davis was the killer, they should be charged with perjury.
“It should have happened today,” she said of the execution.
Davis, 39, was convicted in 1991 of killing the officer as he responded to an altercation in a Burger King parking lot.
Earlier Tuesday, Davis refused his last meal, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections, which will still provide him with macaroni and cheese, pinto beans, green beans, lettuce and tomato salad, corn bread, fruit cobbler and tea.
Prison officials said that he was offered ativan, a mild sedative. But Davis refused to take the drug, he said.
Many had asked Georgia to grant Davis a new trial: celebrities like Susan Sarandon, Harry Belafonte and the Indigo Girls; world leaders such as former President Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Pope Benedict XVI; and former and current U.S. lawmakers like Bob Barr, Carolyn Moseley Braun and John Lewis.
Amnesty International has issued a 39-page report questioning his conviction, and protesters have been gathering at the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta this week. .
Davis’ sister, Martina Correia, said she was sleepless Monday night and was spending Tuesday at his side. She said she planned to stay until prison officials told her to leave at 3 p.m.
Before the stay was announced, she said, “We still hope the U.S. Supreme Court will look into my brother’s case and give some relief. We will have a lot of family time with him and recall old times and pray together.”
The Georgia Supreme Court turned down the plea for a stay in Davis’ execution Monday, saying the U.S. Supreme Court “properly has jurisdiction over Davis’ pending petition.”