During the last few months, the NAACP has made major inroads in bringing national attention to the Troy Davis case. But for Martina Correia, this has been an 18-year battle of trying to get her younger brother off death row for a crime she believes he didn't commit, and she's not the only one. Davis was convicted in 1991 of fatally shooting off-duty police officer Mark Allen MacPhail in Chatham County, Georgia. There was no physical evidence connecting Davis to the crime and seven of the nine witnesses have since recanted their testimonies. The case has even come to the attention of former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, and Archbishop Desmond TuTu, who have all written letters supporting Davis. Most recently, the Supreme Court has decided to review the case in the fall. It's another waiting game for Correia, who, after losing her father, dealing with her own illness, and severe financial hardship, continues to travel the country speaking about her brother's case. Now, an advocate against the death penalty, Correia talked candidly to ESSENCE.com about the racism steeped in her brother's conviction, what her family has had to endure and how she remains hopeful in her darkest hour.
ESSENCE.COM: So far, the NAACP, Amnesty International and other groups around the country have gotten 60,000 people to sign petitions in support of Troy getting a new trial. How does it feel to have so many people supporting your brother?
MARTINA CORREIA: It's a phenomenal thing because it's added to the already 500,000 signatures that we've sent to the governor in the last two years. There are a lot of people who are watching Georgia and Chatham County and saying this is absurd. Out of the 60,000 signatures, 11,000 came out of Chatham County from multicultural sections. The people who are supporting Troy are from a cross-section of all these different communities.
ESSENCE.COM: Last fall, Georgia Supreme Court granted your brother a stay of execution two hours before he was to be put to death. A month later, they reversed the order until a federal appeals court issued another stay. Why do you believe the justice system keeps playing this back-and-forth game with his life?
CORREIA: The Georgia Pardons and Parole Board and the courts have been rejecting his appeals by split decision. Nothing has ever been unanimous. But when you look at the people who are voting against Troy, they're all White males. This is a Black man accused of killing a White police officer in the South. Troy's cases are being denied based on the procedure to hear the evidence, not on the actual evidence itself, and that's the problem. From 1991 to 1996, my brother didn't even have a lawyer because Georgia doesn't provide attorneys for post-conviction appeals. Once he finally got a lawyer to present the witnesses' statements who said Troy wasn't the one, the court said, well, the paperwork wasn't filed correctly so we don't have to hear this evidence and you need to go to the next court.