JACKSON, Ga. (AP) -- After meeting for nearly two hours with death row inmate Troy Davis on Friday, two Georgia congressmen and the president of the NAACP said they are convinced of his innocence and committed to saving his life.
Congressmen John Lewis and Hank Johnson said they plan to return to Washington to pursue other legal means to resolving Davis' case, which is currently back in the U.S. Supreme Court on appeal. NAACP President Ben Jealous said the case is now a national priority for the organization.
"This case stands out," Jealous said during a news conference after he met with Davis. "Something's wrong in Chatham County."
Davis was convicted in the 1989 killing of Savannah, Ga., police officer Mark MacPhail but his guilt was put in question after seven out of nine witnesses from his trial changed their testimony. One of the witnesses who didn't recant is the man many suspect of being the actual murderer. Supporters are calling for a new trial for Davis, 40, who has been incarcerated for nearly two decades.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, consider the case closed and cast doubt on the new evidence. Former Savannah District Attorney Spencer Lawton has said the new testimony is "very difficult to believe" because it could have been manipulated.
Lewis said he has considered asking for a presidential pardon for Davis, but has not yet spoken to President Barack Obama about intervening in the case. When he returns to Washington next week, Lewis said he plans to talk to the chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to discuss possible legislation related to Davis' case.
On May 22, two dozen congressmen -- including Lewis and Johnson -- sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder about Davis' case, asking him to "take any action, open any investigation or simply use the persuasion of your office to ensure that a grave injustice is not done in Georgia" and said MacPhail's death "brought the ire and rage of a city that still bore the scars of segregation, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement."
"One man cannot stand in the place of another to placate some generic cry for quick justice through abbreviated investigation," reads the letter, which was also sent to Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisholm and Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker.
MacPhail, who was working off-duty as a security guard at a bus station, rushed to help a homeless man who had been pistol-whipped at a nearby parking lot. The 27-year-old was shot twice when he approached Davis and two other men. Witnesses identified Davis as the shooter in the 1991 trial. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.
Johnson, who wrote a letter to the state parole board in 2007 asking for clemency for Davis, said on Friday that Davis encouraged the group who came to visit him, and led them in prayer.
"There was a railroading of Troy Davis, but we got our own train now," Johnson said. "The train is picking up momentum. We can't bring Officer MacPhail back, but we can prevent a diabolical injustice from taking place."
Jealous said Davis' case would be on the NAACP's agenda leading up to their annual convention in July, adding that the organization has contacted more than 400,000 activists online.
Davis' sister, Martina Correia, said she was encouraged that others were now telling his story.
"For almost 20 years, I've been trying to get somebody to listen," said Correia. "Now we have the world watching and the state of Georgia still wants to be defiant."