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Sister of Georgia Death Row Prisoner Troy Anthony Davis Leads Campaign to Save His Life

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Martina Correia joins us to talk about the case of her brother, Troy Anthony Davis. Davis has been on death row since 1991 for a murder he says he did not commit. With no physical or DNA evidence or a murder weapon, the prosecutor’s case rested entirely on eyewitness testimony. But seven of the nine non-police witnesses said they were coerced by police and have since recanted their testimony. Nine witnesses have also implicated another man in the murder. Georgia’s Supreme Court will hear arguments next month on whether Davis should get a new trial. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to — well, it’s Troy Anthony Davis Day at American University, where students are learning about the case of a death row prisoner. Juan?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Anthony Davis was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Georgia on July 17th of this year. Less than 24 hours before his scheduled execution, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles agreed to consider additional evidence and granted him a 90-day stay.

Davis has been on death row since 1991 for a murder he says he did not commit. He was convicted for killing a white police officer Mark Allen McPhail. With no physical or DNA evidence or a murder weapon, the prosecutor’s case rested entirely on eyewitness testimony. But since 1991, seven of the nine non-police witnesses said they were coerced by police and have since recanted their testimony. Nine witnesses have also implicated another man in the murder.

Georgia’s Supreme Court announced Monday that it would hear arguments on November 13 as to whether Davis should get a new trial. Meanwhile, the Board of Pardons and Paroles postponed its decision on commuting Davis’s execution until the Supreme Court decides on whether to grant him a new trial.

Davis turns 39 next week. He has been on death row now for almost 16 years. Supporters have planned a community march for justice in Savannah on October 13.

In a moment, we’ll be joined by Troy Davis’s sister, Martina Correia. But first, let’s turn to Troy Davis in his own words. He was interviewed from prison in July by Naji Mujahid of DC Radio Co-op and a reporter with Free Speech Radio News. This is Troy Davis.

TROY ANTHONY DAVIS: I just want to tell everybody how thankful I am for their prayers, their support, and want them to continue to stand up for me, because anybody can be put in my particular situation.

It’s time for the young brothers out there in the street to do what’s right, to educate themselves and the younger brothers and teach them how to turn their life around in the right direction, open up your own businesses, make sure that you’ve got yourself in check so that you will have a better chance in life to survive and won’t be no product of a system.

It’s time for the sisters to embrace their brothers, the ones who are doing wrong, to talk to them and encourage them to do right.

But most of all, it’s time for people in general to stand up for everything that they feel is not right and to speak out and let their voice be heard.

My situation is a situation that should have never happened. But together, if we pull together as a people, I’ll be coming home. And when I come home, we can bring more brothers and sisters out, bring them home, gather them together, and, as one people, we can make a change in this wicked world.

AMY GOODMAN: Troy Davis, speaking from prison last July. Martina Correia is Troy Davis’s sister, a leading advocate against the death penalty. She has also been raising awareness about breast cancer, fighting for her own life, as well as her brother’s. This Monday, she was just honored by the National Breast Cancer Awareness Coalition. She was honored, along with Sheryl Crow and the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, joining us now in our firehouse studio.

Welcome to Democracy Now!

MARTINA CORREIA: Thank you for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: Today is Troy Anthony Davis Day at American University. What does that mean?

MARTINA CORREIA: Well, Professor Gemma Puglisi and Richard Stack were so interested in Troy’s case. They were unaware of what was going on, and they heard the news, and they started investigating what was going on. And so, they are at the School of Communications, and they were so impacted by what’s happening, and the students there, that they decided that they wanted to do a Troy Anthony Davis Day. And they are going to be educating the entire campus at American University about Troy’s case and getting more people involved. And it’s really interesting, because they’ve already developed a syllabus around his case. And so, several law schools across the country — Harvard, Emory University, Mercer — they’re all doing various similar things, but today is Troy Anthony Davis Day.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think is most important for people to understand? Among the issues, seven of the nine non-police witnesses —


AMY GOODMAN: — they implicated at the time. What was the scene at the time, and now what are they saying?

MARTINA CORREIA: Well, most of these witnesses were very young. A lot of them had criminal histories. Some of them were drug-addicted, various other problems. And they felt threatened. They were intimidated in their statements —

AMY GOODMAN: This was late at night?

MARTINA CORREIA: Late at night, 1:00 in the morning. They couldn’t see what was going on. And most of them had no idea of what took place. They didn’t even have an identity of the perpetrator. And it was really amazing, because when the actual perpetrator went to the police department with a lawyer, everything turned on Troy. And so, they had to —

AMY GOODMAN: Explain the scene. It was in a parking lot?

MARTINA CORREIA: This happened at the Burger King parking lot in Savannah, Georgia, where a homeless man was being attacked over a can of beer. He was being pistol-whipped. And Troy and a 16-year-old tried to intervene. And the person with the gun turned the gun on Troy and, you know, said, “Get out of here! You don’t know me. Stay out of my business!” And Troy — they left the scene.

And later, shots were heard. And it was an off-duty police officer coming outside to intervene, as well, and the person turned and fired on an off-duty police officer. I don’t know if they knew it was a police officer or they just turned in reflex and fired, but the police officer was shot and he was killed. And about six hours later, no one knew what happened, and this person walked into the police station and said Troy did it.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And he has always maintained his innocence.


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The difficulty he had in trying to get some of this new evidence reviewed, a federal law intervened, effectively, to prevent that.


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Could you talk about that?

MARTINA CORREIA: Well, in 1991 was when Troy was sent to death row, and shortly after, Newt Gingrich de-funded the Georgia Resource Center and all the resource centers that actually protected death row inmates or defended them. So they went from having eight, 10 lawyers and investigators to one or two handling 80 cases. So what took place was, from 1991 to 1996, when it was crucial in Troy’s habeas hearing, he had no attorney, and the Resource Center kept telling the courts, “Well, you know, we don’t have enough money to defend him.” So when the witnesses start recanting, there was no one to take their information. And then, when we did start getting the information in 1996, the courts say, “Well, you should have brought that up at habeas, so there’s nothing you can do about it now.” So that’s what we’ve been fighting, a technicality that says, with the [Effective] Death Penalty and Anti-Terrorism Act, that you don’t have to look at actual innocence if you had a procedural bar and you took too long to bring forth new evidence.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about what happened. We spoke to you in July.


AMY GOODMAN: You were walking in for the hearing.


AMY GOODMAN: Troy was about to be executed.


AMY GOODMAN: And explain the decision then and now the decision of the Georgia Supreme Court.

MARTINA CORREIA: Well, Troy’s clemency hearing was the longest clemency hearing in the history of Georgia. I mean, our portion was five hours itself, and they had to cut it off, and then the prosecutor’s side was about three hours. And they came back and decided to give Troy an up-to-90-day stay.

But what took place was, five of the seven witnesses who recanted came forward, including the man who was being attacked that night, and said, “I never saw Troy Davis in the parking lot.” One gentleman said he was a police snitch, and the police had paid him several times to lie on people, and that he just went by the headlines, and the police gave him everything else. Another witness stated he couldn’t read and write. The police officer was giving them pre-typed statements. So nobody knew what was going on, but they were threatened and intimidated. And they came before the Georgia Parole Board, and they said that under oath. And I think that was a pivotal thing, because we’ve been saying this all along. But to hear the witnesses actually say this — and they had no reason to come forward now, because they’re being attacked. Even one of our state senators said that the witnesses should be arrested now for telling the truth.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And your hopes, in terms of the Georgia Supreme Court hearing? How has the climate in Georgia changed in recent years in terms of the death penalty?

MARTINA CORREIA: I think Troy’s case has really exposed the death penalty in the South: the racism; the recantation; the coercion; the witnesses, how they were treated; no physical evidence; no DNA; no gun. And all of your witnesses have come forward, and your case is falling apart. But it shows that Georgia still wants to hide this untruth by pushing forward with the execution. But so many people nationally and internationally have come forward that they’re under the microscope right now, and I think that’s why the Georgia Supreme Court is stepping in.

AMY GOODMAN: Martina Correia, you just were here for the National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund annual dinner, honored by Sheryl Crow, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. They called you “the star of the South.” Your face adorns the Breast Cancer mobile vans going out into the community through Savannah. How do you fight for your own life and for your brother’s?

MARTINA CORREIA: Well, it’s amazing, because when I go into my oncologist’s office, I always seem to get in the same exam room, and there’s a saying on the wall by Robert Schuller that says, “Don’t think about all the things you have lost, but the things you have left to do.” And I have dedicated my life to saving the life of my brother, because there’s times when I couldn’t get up and take care of myself, and my mother took care of me. And my brother has been on death row professing his innocence all these years, and he’s only been concerned about me and my family and our health. And if he can be on death row and be the same type of person that he’s always been, then I can fight for him on the outside, and I will continue to do that with every breath that I have.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In your conversations with him after the decision of the parole board and the court, the last time you talked to him, how was he feeling?

MARTINA CORREIA: Troy is very confident. His family loves him. And he feels that, you know, he said that God did not bring him this far to leave him, even when they had him on death watch. And he said that it was so funny, because he was talking about a radio. He hadn’t seen a radio in 18 years, and I gave him a radio and a small TV. But his focus was that innocence would prevail, and no matter what took place, the name of Troy Anthony Davis will be heard around the world, and people would finally know the truth.

AMY GOODMAN: So, in November, what do we expect to hear?

MARTINA CORREIA: Well, in November, I’m prayerful that with all the attention and things going on and the truth, that the courts will come in and do what’s right and give Troy a new trial. That’s all he’s ever asked for, for the witnesses to be able to tell the truth without duress.

October 13th, we’re going to have a march in Savannah. It will be the first justice march in Savannah since the civil rights era. And we’re going to march down the street, and we’re going to tell people that innocence matters and we’re demanding a new trial for Troy Anthony Davis.

AMY GOODMAN: Martina Correia, we will continue to cover this case. I want to thank you for being with us. Martina is Troy Anthony Davis’s older sister, an anti-death penalty activist, a breast cancer activist, visiting us here in New York.

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