Published: October 24, 2008

ATLANTA – A federal appeals court on Friday halted the execution of a Georgia inmate convicted in the 1989 killing of a police officer, the third time in 16 months that a stay of execution has been ordered in the case.

The inmate, Troy A. Davis, 40, was scheduled to die by lethal injection on Monday for the murder of Mark A. MacPhail, a Savannah police officer.

In deciding to consider a new hearing for Mr. Davis, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, asked his lawyers to prove that no reasonable person today would find him guilty.

Since Mr. Davis's conviction in 1991, seven witnesses have recanted their testimony, including two who said they had felt pressure by the police to testify against Mr. Davis and three who said a different man had admitted to the killing. Prosecutors presented no DNA evidence or murder weapon, although they linked bullet casings found at the scene to a gun they said Mr. Davis had used in an earlier shooting.

The case has bounced around the judicial system, appearing before at least 29 judges in seven types of reviews. The Georgia Supreme Court twice denied Mr. Davis a new hearing, and the United States Supreme Courtand the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles have issued stays of execution before rejecting his appeal.

"It's extraordinary for three stays to be issued in one case," said Stephen B. Bright, a visiting lecturer at Yale Law School and president of the Southern Center for Human Rights. "Clearly, the case has been very troubling to each of the courts that examined it."

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