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Execution put on hold for man convicted in cop's murder

  • Story Highlights
  • Troy Davis was convicted in 1991 for the murder of a Savannah police officer
  • Seven of the nine witnesses against him have recanted their testimony
  • Davis has always maintained his innocence
  • Earlier this month, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Davis
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(CNN) -- The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay of execution Friday for a Georgia death row inmate who had been scheduled to die on Monday, his attorney said.

Troy Davis, 39, has always maintained his innocence in the killing of Officer Mark MacPhail.

Troy Davis was convicted in 1991 of the murder of Savannah police Officer Mark MacPhail two years earlier, but has always maintained his innocence.

Witnesses claimed Davis, then 19, and two others were harassing a homeless man in a Burger King parking lot when the off-duty officer arrived to help the man.

Witnesses testified at trial that Davis then shot MacPhail twice and fled.

Since Davis' 1991 conviction, seven of the nine witnesses against him have recanted their testimony. No physical evidence was presented linking Davis to the killing.

The court granted a 25-day stay so Davis' legal team can file a new habeas corpus brief with a lower court, Davis' attorney, Jay Ewart, told CNN.

MacPhail's mother, Annaliese, said she was angry. "I want this thing over with," she said. "This is mental cruelty to all of us."

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Ewart said Davis' attorneys will argue that his execution would be a violation of the 8th Amendment.

The amendment reads, "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."

Davis' sister, Martina Correia, said hearing of the stay of execution "is a moment that you cannot understand. As my brother says, 'Only by the grace of God.' "

"I don't know if I can catch my breath," she told CNN. "He feels like Daniel in the lion's den," she said, and quoted her brother as saying, "'Someone is intervening because someone wants the truth to be told. Maybe it's Officer MacPhail.'"

Davis lost an appeal to the Supreme Court last week, and had been scheduled to die by lethal injection Monday evening at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, Georgia. See which states allow capital punishment »

Amnesty International Executive Director Larry Cox said in a written statement that the organization was "heartened" to hear of the stay of execution.

"Until this point, the compelling issues in this case have been virtually ignored, leaving Georgia vulnerable to the possibility of killing an innocent man."

Correia said she will visit her brother on Tuesday, but said she had spoken with him already.

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"He's elated. He wants to thank everyone from around the world that's working on his behalf."

She said she feels for the MacPhail family: "I wish they could sit down in a room with us and hear what the witnesses have to say, without the press, without the lawyers. I feel they deserve the truth, and they have not gotten that."

CNN's Tristan Smith and Eliott C. McLaughlin contributed to this report.

All About Troy DavisAmnesty InternationalU.S. Supreme Court

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