Some excerpts from Elizabeth’s fine book:
“As he was being led away he said ‘They are ready to kill me and I am ready to go now. I don’t want any of you crying.’ Oh I held my tears until I got around the corner and then I nearly passed out.”
--An aunt of an executed man
“They just took him out and left us standing there. She [my wife] has been unable to put a marker on in the grave yet…My wife’s whole personality has changed so much so that her daughter said that when her brother was executed ‘I lost my mother as well.’”
--A father of an executed man
Each time an execution is announced “We relive the whole thing. Every one of those memories comes tumbling back. You know that someone else is suffering just like you suffered.”
--A daughter of an executed man
Today Elizabeth writes about the case of Troy Anthony Davis:
Martina Correia and her mother Virginia Davis fear that their worse nightmare
will come true. The execution of Troy Anthony Davis, their brother and son respectively, is likely to occur before the season ends. Troy has been on Georgia’s death row for more than 15 years, his conviction largely based on witness testimony. At the time of this writing, all but two of the nine witnesses who testified against Troy have recanted or contradicted their testimony and admitted that their initial statements convicting Troy were made under police duress.
I have been with family members when their fathers, sons, and brothers were executed. I have seen their families and lives unravel, and I know that a death sentence affects so much more than the accused.
Troy’s sister Martina is a wiry African American woman who is proud of her military service, and her years helping deliver babies as an Ob-Gyn nurse. Martina, however, is no longer employed. Rather, her boundless energy is being depleted as she fights Troy’s execution and her own battle against breast cancer. An average day for Martina involves hours on the phone and computer getting the word out about Troy, which can include supporting international petitions, contacting leaders in human rights organizations and clergy, as well as pitching stories to media outlets.
And, it is against this backdrop that she is seeking to raise her son with love and support, and buoy her mother, Virginia, whose fear of the execution of her son have brought Virginia into a debilitating depression.
Virginia explained that when Troy was first arrested, “I was really deeply depressed. I would lay in my bed and I would pray awhile and cry awhile…It was just like I got arrested.” Years later as more and more evidence came out about Troy’s innocence, Virginia’s depression lifted, and she even began to smile again, believing that the court would never kill an innocent man.
Until recently things looked up for Troy. His case was picked up by a high-profile law firm, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran several articles discussing the emergence of the new evidence. Martina’s work was paying off as it seemed Troy may have been on the road which could lead to exoneration. Additionally, her cancer was in remission.
After interviewing many family members whose loved ones were on death row, including the Davis/Carreia family, for our book, In the Shadow of Death: Restorative Justice and Death Row Families, with a stunning forward by
Steve Earle (Oxford University Press), I remain haunted by a young man whom I
call Dray. When I first met Dray he communicated with his father regularly was in high school with a bright future and hope of an athletic scholarship. His accomplishment carried a lot of pride, for him and his father, as he did it against a backdrop drop of difficult neighborhoods where many residents engaged in drug and gang activity and where a number of his peers ended up in juvenile detention. However, after his father approached execution there was a spiral: Dray stopped playing sports and dropped out of school. His future far less bright.
Martina hopes for a very different outcome. She hopes that the international
organizing to stop Troy’s execution will save Troy, and if not she explains:
“I look at my son who is 13 now and he keeps repeating the same question,
‘Why do we kill innocent people, why do they want to kill my Uncle Troy?’
I have never had an answer for him that I thought was even close to being good,
but today I sat him down and I said if for any reason it comes to that, ‘Maybe
Uncle Troy is to be the catalyst of change.’
And that, my friends, is up to us.