Troy Davis, a convicted murderer in one of America's most protracted and controversial death penalty cases, is in what are expected to be his final hours after an Atlanta panel rejected his last-ditch plea for clemency.

This morning, 42-year-old Davis will be escorted to an execution chamber at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison outside the city of Jackson, where he is scheduled to be killed by lethal injection.

Georgia's five-man Board of Pardons spent Tuesday hearing a plea for his sentence to be commuted. Supporters argue that Davis' conviction for the murder of off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail in 1989 was deeply flawed.

The board heard submissions from several jurors who found Davis guilty but have since changed their minds, and with a selection of key prosecution witnesses who have recanted the evidence they gave at his trial in 1991. A spokesman refused to say why the board rejected his latest plea, or by what majority the decision was reached.

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The state does not let its governor intervene in capital cases. Davis' backers last night asked that he be allowed to take a polygraph test, urged prison workers to strike or call in sick, asked prosecutors to block the execution and considered seeking White House intervention.

- Independent, AP