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Keane drummer says 'Inspired by strength' of death row prisoner

Richard Hughes, the drummer from best-selling rock band Keane has spoken today of how he was inspired by the strength of man he has visited on death row in Georgia, USA.

Richard Hughes, 34, Keane’s highly-regarded drummer, has today visited Troy Davis, 40, on death row at the Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, in the US state of Georgia, as part of an Amnesty International delegation to the prison. Along with Alistair Carmichael MP, chair of the UK parliamentary group for the abolition of the death penalty, Richard Hughes and Amnesty are in the US for a week-long visit meeting officials and campaigners on Troy Davis’ case.

Richard Hughes said:

“I’m a staunch opponent of the death penalty in all instances but the denial of justice in Troy Davis’s case is extreme even by capital punishment standards.

“Today it was genuinely inspiring to meet Troy, to hear how he’s been battling to have vital evidence heard that could see him released an innocent man, and to see first-hand how his amazing, quiet strength is getting him through this terrifying ordeal.

“I hope Troy has taken extra strength from the visit - the key thing is that he knows there’s growing international support for him and the fight to clear his name.”

Mr Davis, who has always protested his innocence, has been on death row since 1991. Last year he came within two hours of execution, but last month the US Supreme Court ruled that he should be allowed a new hearing to establish his innocence.

Troy Davis was convicted in 1991 of killing a police officer called Mark Allen MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia in 1989. However, the authorities failed to produce a murder weapon or any physical evidence linking Davis to the crime, and seven of nine witnesses against him later recanted or changed their initial testimonies in sworn affidavits.

Amnesty International UK death penalty campaigner Kim Manning-Cooper said:

“Troy Davis’s case is a startling example of the gross injustice of the death penalty.

“Most people - even supporters of capital punishment - would be horrified to discover that you could languish on death row despite the original prosecution case against you falling apart. But that, essentially, is what has happened in Troy’s case.

“Troy Davis has previously come horribly close to execution but may now have a real opportunity to clear his name. We’re determined to support him while he attempts to do that.”

Death row in the USA: some key facts
* Georgia is one of 35 US states to retain the death penalty

* The USA has seen a fall in the number of executions in recent years, but it still executes dozens of people every year - last year there were 37 executions (the fourth highest number of any country in the world), four of which were in Georgia

* To date in 2009 there have already been 39 executions (an average of one a week), two of these in Georgia

* Troy Davis is one of 109 inmates (108 men, one woman) on death row in Georgia

* Since 1976 the USA has executed 1,175 people

* From 1973 to the present 135 people have been released from death row on the grounds of innocence - on average there have been three exonerations per year

* Some 3,300 prisoners remain on death row in the USA

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