ATLANTA - The state parole board on Monday said it will suspend any consideration of the death sentence of convicted cop killer Troy Davis until the Georgia Supreme Court has finished studying the case.
The high court granted an appeal by Davis's lawyers last week after a lower court denied him a new trial.
Davis' lawyers have asked for a new trial in part because they say several witnesses who initially testified against their client have since recanted or contradicted their testimony.
The state Board of Pardons and Paroles had been scheduled to hear from witnesses in the case on Thursday concerning Davis' request for clemency. But the board decided to put consideration of Davis' request on hold until the Supreme Court has acted.
'The board's policy has always been not to look at death cases for clemency as long as there's some viable court case going on,' said Tracy Masters, an attorney for the board. 'We thought this one was at the end and it now appears it may not be.'
The parole board granted Davis a 90-day stay of execution on July 17 - the day before he was set to die by lethal injection. The Supreme Court voted 4-3 last week to hear his appeal.
Davis, 38, was convicted of killing Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail, who was shot twice after he rushed to help a homeless man who had been assaulted. The 1989 shooting happened in a Burger King parking lot next to a bus station where MacPhail, 27, worked off-duty as a security guard.
Davis' lawyers say seven of nine witnesses who testified against Davis at his trial have either changed their stories or told differing versions of them.
Also, three people who did not testify at trial have sworn in affidavits that another man, Sylvester Coles, confessed to killing the officer after Davis was convicted.
The case has won Davis some high-profile support. U.S. Rep. John Lewis, an Atlanta Democrat, testified on his behalf during the parole board's clemency hearing last month.
The Vatican also joined a list of international supporters, sending a letter to Gov. Sonny Perdue urging the state to commute Davis's sentence.
MacPhail's family members have argued that many of the arguments being made on Davis' behalf also were made during earlier, unsuccessful appeals and are based more on opposition to the death penalty than the details of the case. They say they remain convinced that Davis was the shooter.
Masters said Monday's order doesn't prevent the board from considering the clemency request again after the Supreme Court has ruled.
'When it comes out of the court, if the posture's unchanged then the board, I would anticipate, would pick up the case pretty much where it left off,' he said.
Jason Ewart, an attorney for Davis, verified that Thursday's hearing will be called off 'because the board has suspended its decision until after the Supreme Court has made a decision.'