In August 1991, Troy Davis was convicted and sentenced to death row for a crime he maintains he did not commit – the 1989 murder of Mark MacPhail, a Savannah police officer. During Davis’ trial neither a weapon nor any physical evidence were ever provided. Davis was found guilty based solely on the testimony of nine witnesses, seven of which who have since come forward indicating they were coerced into making statements against him.
His case has caught the attention of Jimmy Carter, The Pope, Desmond TuTu, Amnesty International, members of the U.S. Congress and organizations around the world. The State of Georgia does not allow Davis access to the press or journalists. I spoke with his sister Martina Correia about her brother Troy and his case.
This is a bit of their story.
How would you describe your brother’s life prior to the night MacPhail was shot?
He graduated from high school with honors. He took care of our sister who was paralyzed from the neck down while my mother was working. He was a Junior Little League Coach with the Police Athletic League. We grew up in a middle class black neighborhood full of police officers. We always had a sense of taking care of family, God and country. We were not drug dealers living in the projects as everyone tried to say.
This is not how Troy was portrayed in the newspapers.
If you came to my community today and asked about Troy Davis you would not hear anything bad about him. When the media came to our neighborhood they only heard positive things about Troy, but they were not allowed to put that on TV or in the newspaper.
What impact do you think the media had on your brother?
It was one of the biggest cases ever in the city. They hung Troy in the newspaper. The courts would not give him a change of venue. How was he expected to get a fair trial? We had a racially mixed jury, but in the black community if you are arrested or if you are on TV, you are guilty because the white people said so.
Explain why some say Troy fled to Atlanta after the shooting.
He did not flea to Atlanta. Prior to the shooting he had secured a construction job with relatives in Atlanta. The shooting happened on a Friday night. Troy was home Friday night, all day Saturday and half a day on Sunday. I drove him to Atlanta on Sunday. I do not remember all the details of driving to Atlanta, but I do remember getting lost and going to a police station for directions. How many cop killers go to a police station for directions?
What happened when your brother was questioned by the Savannah Police Department?
He wanted to go in for questioning to clear his name. He went in voluntarily to tell the police what he knew about that night. They asked him where the gun was. He said he did not have a gun. They then gave him his arraignment date. Troy has never been interrogated by any police department about this crime. The only time he had the opportunity to tell his side o the story was at trial.
The Savannah Police Department’s case was built around Coles saying Troy killed MacPhail?
Yes, but Coles was the only person who had a gun the night the police officer was shot and his gun was never produced for testing. Coles was also in the parking lot where the police officer got killed and owns a gun which is the same caliber weapon used to shoot the police officer. The only other witness yet to recant their statement is someone who could not identify Troy immediately after the crime but was able to during trial two years later.
Where does the court status stand now?
We lost 4 – 3 to the Georgia Supreme Court with a strong dissent and we lost 2-1 in the 11th Circuit Court with a strong dissent. Now we are before the U.S. Supreme Court asking for our evidence to be allowed. The U.S. Supreme Court has not granted this in over 85 years.
Do you have any idea on time frames on when you would hear from the Supreme Court?
They could make a decision this summer or wait and hold it until the fall.*
How would you describe Troy’s emotional state on death row?
People always ask me that and it just really perplexes me. To me, it is a crazy question. How would your mental state be on death row when you know you are innocent? How do you describe emotional well being when somebody is trying to kill you?
He has had three death warrants. What do you say to that? He is not psychotic it. He has a strong family. He has a strong since of faith, but of course he is going to be stressed because someone is trying to kill him and people are denying him access to courts. I am pissed off for him, but Troy does not get angry, vengeful or hateful because he has a strong sense of God. But at the same time he is still fighting for his life.
How do other prisoners treat Troy?
There is a strong sense of support for Troy among the prisoners.
Your brother has been saved from execution three different times. What do you attribute this to?
Not man. I attribute it to God. But people have also been doing a lot of work around this case. We have been getting a lot of international attention.
Through the efforts of Amnesty International half a million letters have been written, Desmond TuTu and Jimmy Carter has commented on Troy’s case and there are organizations in the EU that support him, what do you attribute to all of the fervor behind this?
We have the truth on our side. We have all of this information and evidence [to prove Troy’s innocence] and the courts say, “Still, it does not matter.” That is how the State of Georgia is operating.
Do you believe there is any fear in the State of Georgia that they are incarcerating an innocent man on death row and if they were to execute him it would bring even more attention to this case?
I would hope so. But we have so many undercover racists in this state I don’t think they really care my brother is innocent. They know he is innocent. That is why they deny him access to the press. If Troy was guilty why not give him access to the press so he could hang himself right in front of the camera. They know that they used and intimidated witnesses to lie against my brother. They needed to get a killer off the street. They had to appease certain people in the community and they did not care how they did it. That is the way I feel about it.
Do you know what Sylvester Coles is doing now?
Same thing he was doing before — terrorizing people, threatening people with guns, walking around drinking and bragging about the police officer’s murder.
If somebody wanted to help what is the best thing they could do?
Go www.troyanthonydavis.org or www.amnestyinternational.org. They can sign petitions. Write letters to the Governor of Georgia. They can send letters to Obama. They could write to their representatives in Congress. There are so many things they could do. It is just a matter of what they want to do. They should educate themselves about the case and keep spreading the story to people they know. They could write to their representatives in Congress.
Your brother has been claiming his innocence on death row for almost two decades.
At first I thought if we tell the truth Troy would be free and exonerated. But, the more we told the truth the more we were attacked. The more we told the truth the more these hate mongers came out. The more we told the truth the more the community was separated because the black people were afraid to stand up against the establishment and the white people said, “We’ve got this black man in jail and we cannot let him out.” Nobody talks about the fact that my father was in the police force. Nobody talks about the fact that my brother was a good kid. It is not us against the police. We have family and friends on the police force. And yet the courts have been saying, “We do not have to overturn it”. They can overturn it. They just choose not to.
*Note as per www.troyanthonydavis.org “The U.S. Supreme Court delayed a decision on whether to grant Troy Davis an appeal until after it returns from recess in September.”