Martina Correia was a young Amnesty International volunteer when her brother, Troy Davis, was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death for the 1989 murder of a Savannah police officer. Since his conviction, the case against him has fallen apart and several key witnesses have recanted their testimonies; Amnesty International has conducted a worldwide campaign on Davis' behalf since 2007.
Last year the U.S. Supreme Court issued an extraordinary order for a federal hearing to consider new evidence, but the federal court ruled that Davis did not meet the impossible requirement of proving actual innocence. At press time, the state of Georgia is preparing to set a fourth execution date-with only the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole standing between Davis and the death chamber. Here, in her own words, is a glimpse of her fight against the system of capital punishment.
As told to Jungwon Kim
Amnesty International believes in Troy's case. For my family, this was a very big thing, because we were ostracized even from our own community, within our own church and our places of employment. I could go and talk to ministers, and people would say, "Oh there's the sister of the cop-killer." Ministers would say this, people of faith.
Troy was always a person that believed in the justice system. He believed that if you tell the truth, then things will work out. Until we got wrapped up in the justice system, we didn't realize that the system was tainted in certain ways. Looking at my son, and looking at other young black men in my community, I think any of us could be Troy Davis-we'd just have to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Within four months my brother faced two execution dates and then another one within six months after that. They read you a death warrant that tells you how and when you're going to die. Then they want you to sign it. After that, the counselor comes in and hands you this piece of paper and asks, "How do you want your body disposed of? Do you want your organs donated? Do you want the state to bury you or do you want your family to have your body?" At the scheduled execution time, the defendant's family has to stand outside in the dirt with a portable toilet at the end of the prison grounds, while the victim's family gets to go inside. The hearse drives past you. If your loved one is executed, then the hearse takes the body to the state crime lab in Atlanta. Then you have to pay for the autopsy. Why does the state need to do an autopsy? To find out the cause of death? Well, the cause of death is simple: execution.
In the United States of America, it is actually not unconstitutional to execute an innocent person if the state feels they got a fair trial. They can kill you, and if they find you innocent later, then they'll just say, "We're sorry, we made a mistake." I'm here to talk about what's what with this system, to build dialogue so people can understand that this has got to stop. When I started doing this work as a national volunteer chair with AIUSA's Death Penalty Abolition Campaign, I never thought I'd see an end to the juvenile death penalty, but we saw it. I never thought I'd see an end to executing mentally retarded people, but we saw it.
The United Nations has an obligation: we have 82 nations against the death penalty. The United States is policing the world, telling everybody what to do with their citizens, yet we have human rights violations against citizens in this country every day. I was always taught that you have to clean up your own backyard before you go stepping foot in somebody else's. If we believe in human rights, if we believe we are a country that doesn't torture, we must abolish the death penalty.