Friday, December 2, 2011
As many of you know, Troy Davis' sister, Ms. Martina Correia, died yesterday in Savannah, Georgia, at about 6:30 p.m. Without doubt, Troy Davis' most reliable advocate during his twenty years on Georgia's death row (and for the two years he awaited trial) proved to be his elder sister, Martina Correia. Born in Savannah, Georgia, and educated and trained as a health care practitioner, this modern day "Harriet Tubman" worked as a nurse in the United States Army when her brother, Troy Davis, initially faced charges of murder in August 1989.
According to Martina, before she saw the miscarriage of justice in her brother's case, she never opposed the death penalty. In fact, until the arrest of her brother, Martina never believed that, in the United States, the innocent went to prison. As a matter of fact, in August 1989, when local television broadcasts informed Georgia residents that the police regarded Troy Davis as "armed and dangerous", Martina initially believed that the murder charges against her brother would be "dropped" after Troy surrendered to the police and thereby gave the police a chance to see that "Troy was innocent". However, her views changed in August 1991 after the state of Georgia wrongfully convicted and sentenced Troy to die in the electric chair. Although barred by the white trial judge from sitting in the courtroom during her brother's trial, Martina Correia nevertheless witnessed the heinous aftermath of perjured prosecution testimony and of police misconduct. After seeing this injustice, Martina soon joined the movement for the abolition of America's death penalty.
From August 1991 until Troy Davis' death on September 21, 2011, Martina Correia proved to be not only Troy's sister and best friend, but also his most credible and effective advocate against the wickedness of the American police state. For about two decades, Martina campaigned against the death penalty, doing so for a substantial period as a member of the board of directors of the National Coalition for the Abolition of the Death Penalty and, later, as a member of Amnesty International, U.S.A. Indeed, for many years, she campaigned against the death penalty without mentioning Troy Davis' case, because she worried that her advocacy would appear to be biased because of her desire to free her brother from death row.
However, as evidenced by her resolve to free her brother from prison, Martina Correia never doubted Troy's "actual innocence". More than the lawyers who represented Troy Davis, and more than such organizations as Amnesty International and the NAACP, Martina Correia spoke to American courts, to the American people, and indeed to the world at large about the racially bigoted injustice of the Troy Davis conviction. After all, Martina Correia informed the public: (1) that seven out of nine prosecution witnesses recanted their trial testimony against Troy Davis and confessed that they perjured themselves for the government, and that some did so because of illegal police pressure; (2) that at least five new witnesses filed sworn affidavits identifying a police informant named Sylvester "Red" Coles as the actual murderer, not Troy Davis; and (3) that a humane society would never execute someone with so much proof of his or her actual innocence.
Despite Martina's advocacy, the state of Georgia never wanted to know the truth about Officer Mark MacPhail's murder on August 18, 1989. Nor did it want to know the truth about Troy Davis' innocence from that date until his execution on Georgia's death row. As a result, Martina Correia finally bore witness to the death of her brother by "lethal injection", that is to say, by a legalized lynching, on September 21, 2011. A little more than five months earlier, on April 12, 2011, Martina's and Troy's mother, Ms. Virginia Davis, died "of a broken heart", as Martina would say -- while asleep at home in a rocking chair.
For several years, Martina insisted on the political truth in the claim that "I am Troy Davis". She never wavered from the proposition that, while she desperately wanted her brother to live and to be free from prison, his case had become immeasurably larger than that of one man. She made clear that, whatever happened, the injustices of the American police state had to be crushed into nonexistence. Moreover, while the Mark MacPhail family exhibited disdain and hatred for her brother, even to the point of wishing him to be dead, Martina Correia always respected them and spoke lovingly about wanting to protect them from the emotional pain that resulted from Mark MacPhail's murder on August 18, 1989. In the end, Martina, like her brother and mother, died with the courage of her belief in her brother's actual innocence and also with a principled desire to abolish, once and for all, capital punishment.
Survived by her son, De'Jaun, by her sisters Kim and Ebony, and by her brother Lester, Martina Correia, her work, and her cause deserve our utmost respect. From this day forward, or even "from everlasting to everlasting", Martina's life must be our example. After all, Martina's uncompromising love for her brother provides an excellent standard for us to follow, particularly in our political struggle against injustice and against political wickedness.
Thomas Ruffin, Jr.
Attorney for Troy Davis
Friend of Martina Correia
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