Ebenezer pastor continues fight against dealth penalty

One of Atlanta’s prominent religious leaders took to the pulpit Sunday and argued that that the battle against the death penalty should not die with this week’s execution of convicted cop killer Troy Davis.

The Rev. Raphael Warnock called on congregants at Ebenezer Baptist Church to live their faith through both justice and mercy.

Both were absent, he said, when the state executed Davis Wednesday for the 1989 murder of police officer Mark MacPhail in Savannah.

“I’m afraid the word justice has fallen out of the American Christian lexicon,” Warnock said. “That’s how people can worship God on Sunday and break out in applause the next week when they hear how many people have been executed.”

Davis' case had been reviewed by both state and federal courts for fairness for 20 years. The U.S. Supreme Court had taken the extraordinary step of assigning U.S. District Judge William T. Moore to scrutinize the witness testimony to determine whether it raised substantial questions about Davis' guilt. Moore concluded unequivocally in a 174-page ruling that it did not.

"Mr. Davis vastly overstates the value of his evidence of innocence," Moore wrote.

Warnock said he believed that Davis was innocent. But even if Davis were not, the reverend said the execution did not allow for mercy, which the Board of Pardons and Paroles also denied.

“Mercy reaches beyond the limit of justice,” Warnock said. “Where the law was limited, the Board could have done what was right. They did not do their job.”

Church member Brenda Davenport agreed, noting that no consideration was given for whether Davis was a different man this week than the man convicted of the crime.

She said she also worried about questions raised from so many changes in witness testimony.

“Twenty years was a chance for rehabilitation if he really did it,” Davenport said. “If not, America will be looked at in horror to think we’ve killed an innocent person.”

MacPhail’s family has rejected innocence claims, repeatedly saying they believed Davis was the murderer. They supported his execution.

Still, Warnock said he prayed for them, saying their pain was similar to that of the family of James Byrd, a Texas man dragged to his death behind a pick-up truck in 1998.

Texas executed Lawrence Brewer Wednesday for his role in Byrd’s death.

“We have to move past that pain and do justice,” Warnock said. “The death penalty is still wrong.”