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Opinion Piece from the Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

Our member group Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty Executive Director Stacy Rector wrote a compelling opinion piece in the Tennessean about the life of Martina Correia who was Troy Davis’ sister. She dedicated her life to making sure her the story of Troy Davis was told.

Here is a copy of the opinion piece from the Tennessean. Read the full article.

Since the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia on Sept. 21, people have asked me why his case garnered such worldwide attention.

With seven of nine witnesses recanting their testimony and no physical evidence connecting him to the murder of Officer Mark Allen MacPhail, the obvious answer is that far too much doubt existed in the minds of far too many people to move forward with an execution.

Yet, there are other death penalty cases across the country that lack physical evidence and rely on the testimony of unreliable witnesses. So what about Troy Davis’ case rallied people worldwide? For me, the answer lies not in what made the difference but in who made the difference: Martina Davis Correia, Troy’s sister.

For 22 years, Martina struggled to make sure the world knew her brother’s story. She led an international campaign, partnering with Amnesty International and the NAACP, to save her brother’s life and prove his innocence. For her tireless efforts, the Southern Center for Human Rights recognized Martina in 2009 with the prestigious Frederick Douglass Human Rights Award.

But the battle for her brother’s life was not the only battle Martina waged. She was also a veteran of Operation Desert Storm and a leading advocate for access to quality health care, particularly for women and African-Americans. In 2002, Martina herself was diagnosed with breast cancer and endured grueling rounds of chemotherapy and hospital stays while raising her son and speaking out about the injustices of the death penalty system.

Even after her brother’s execution and with her own health failing, her fighting spirit never waned as she stated, “I want people to know that we didn’t fail. As long as we keep hammering away at this thing, as long as we refuse to give up, we haven’t failed. We’ll be doing what Troy would have wanted us to do. Our efforts made an impact, and we’ll continue to make an impact.”

On Dec. 1, just 10 weeks after her brother’s execution, Correia lost her battle with breast cancer. She was 44 years old.

The destruction inflicted by the death penalty system is not limited to those on death row. This broken system inflicts enormous pain on victims’ families, providing neither swift nor sure justice, but instead years of legal wrangling and promises of closure that may never be fulfilled. It inflicts pain on families like the Davises, whose bodies and spirits are battered daily as they face the execution of a loved one.

After the years of stress and trauma she faced with Troy’s impending execution, after her mother’s sudden and unexpected death in April, just weeks after Troy’s final appeal was denied, Martina’s body finally gave out … but not her spirit.

Martina Correia lives on in all those who are committed to a world where violence is rejected, where victims and their families are supported, and where each person has equal access to justice. Thank you, Martina, for your work and witness. May you rest in peace while we continue the struggle.

Stacy Rector is executive director of Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

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