Troy Davis Supporters Push to End Death Penalty
Two years ago on Sept. 21, 2011, the state of Georgia executed Troy Anthony Davis. The execution took place despite major doubts about evidence used to convict Davis of killing police officer Mark MacPhail, including the recantation of seven of the nine non-police witnesses. "The fight is not over, it’s actually just beginning and we still have a long way to go,” says Troy Davis’ sister, Kimberly Davis, of the family’s battle to prove his innocence and to abolish the death penalty nationally. We also speak to outgoing NAACP president Benjamin Jealous and Jen Marlowe, co-author of the new book, "I Am Troy Davis” with Troy’s oldest sister Martina Davis-Correia, who died in December 2011 after a decade-long battle with breast cancer. In addition to the discussion, we air footage from the Democracy Now! special broadcast the night of the execution and from his funeral.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Two years ago Saturday, the state of Georgia executed Troy Anthony Davis. The execution took place despite major doubts about evidence used to convict Davis of killing police officer Mark MacPhail, including the recantation of seven of the nine non-police witnesses. As the world watched to see whether Davis’ final appeal for a stay of execution would be granted by the U.S. Supreme Court, Democracy Now! was the only news outlet to continuously broadcast live from the prison grounds in Jackson, Georgia. During our six-hour special report we spoke with Davis’ supporters and family members who held an all-day vigil, then heard from those who witnessed his death by lethal injection at 11:08 p.m. Eastern time. Soon we will be joined by some of the people who were there that night; his sister, Kimberly, the NAACP’s been jealous, and Jen Marlowe, who has authored the book, "I am Troy Davis." But first, I want to turn to someone who can’t be with us today. Troy’s oldest sister, Martina Davis-Correia. She died in December after a decade-long battle with breast cancer. She was 44 years old. This is Martina speaking two years ago, hours before her brother was executed.
MARTINA DAVIS-CORREIA: I want to stand with my family and say that my — our lives and my sons’ and my sisters’ and brothers’ lives, my nieces’ lives, have been richer for knowing Troy. Anybody who has met Troy has come away with an imprint of him on their soul. I don’t have to tell people what my brother’s like, because once they get to meet him, they can see for themselves. And that is why they try to keep him voiceless in the press, because hey don’t want you to know who Troy Davis is because they you couldn’t stand by and allow the state to kill in your name. So, I just would like to say that I am Troy Davis.
CROWD: We are Troy Davis! We are Troy Davis! We are Troy Davis! We are Troy Davis! We are Troy Davis! We are Troy Davis!
MARTINA DAVIS-CORREIA: And I just would like to say that I’ve been battling cancer for 10 years and I don’t have cancer, but I’m reaping some of the effects [Unintelligible]. Several months ago, I couldn’t — I was doing fine, and after that, I couldn’t get up out of the chair. But, I’m here to tell you that I am going to stand here for my brother today.
I am Troy Davis! You are Troy Davis! We are Troy Davis! Now let’s get to work and let’s show Georgia that we will not stand by and we will defy them and we need to start with that gold dome. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Martina Davis-Correia standing up in her wheelchair, the older sister of Troy Davis, his most vocal and steadfast advocate. As the scheduled time of Troy Davis’ execution approached, it was September 21, 2011, hundreds of his supporters rallied outside the death row prison in Jackson, Georgia. Around 7:00 p.m., the crowd erupted into thunderous cheers. For a moment, it appeared the Supreme Court had stayed the execution for a fourth time.
AMY GOODMAN:What did Troy tell you the last time you saw him?
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: The last time he —- was part of the reasons -—
AMY GOODMAN: We’re hearing some kind of cheer that has gone up.
LARRY COX: We got a stay?
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: We got a stay!
LARRY COX: Oh, my God! Oh, my God!
AMY GOODMAN: But the jubilation was short-lived. After realizing that the execution had just been delayed, not stayed, supporters of Troy Davis waited for news from the Supreme Court. Just before 11:00, about 10:45, the crowd went silent when it was learned the high court would not stop the execution. Prison officials began the lethal injection process minutes later at about 10:53. Troy Davis was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.
KRISTEN STANCIL: The court-ordered execution of Troy Anthony Davis has been carried out. The time of death is 11:08 p.m.
AMY GOODMAN: I’m standing with —
WESLEY BOYD: Wesley Boyd. And I’d like to say this has been a travesty of justice. And I’d like to tell the—America ought to be ashamed of itself. And God help America. And if you’re alive in America, please don’t come to Georgia. Don’t come to Georgia. Don’t buy any Georgia pecans. Don’t buy any Georgia peaches. Don’t buy any trade with Georgia. The whole world, don’t buy anything with Georgia. God bless America. God bless Troy Davis.
AMY GOODMAN: Minutes after the state of Georgia executed Troy Davis, a group of reporters who witnessed the execution walked out of the death chamber and onto the prison grounds. They described Troy Davis’ final moments. John Lewis is a radio journalist at WSB.
JOHN LEWIS: Basically, it went very quietly. The MacPhail family and friends sat in the first row. The warden read the order, asked if Troy Davis had anything to say. And Davis lifted his head up, looked at that first row, and made a statement which he said — he wanted to talk to the MacPhail family and said that despite the situation you are in, he was not the one who did it. He said that he was not personally responsible for what happened that night, but he did not have a gun. He said to the family that he was sorry for their loss, but also said that he did not take their son, father, brother. He said to them to dig deeper into this case to find out the truth. He asked his family and friends to keep praying, to keep working, and keep the faith. And then he said to the prison staff, the ones he said who are going to take my life, he said to them, may God have mercy on your souls and his last words to them, may God bless your souls. Then he put his head down, the procedure began, and about 15 minutes later it was over.
AMY GOODMAN: As Troy Davis’ death was announced, I turned to Ben Jealous who was standing with the family of Troy Davis in the protest pen. Ben Jealous, the President of the NAACP.
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: You know, my heart goes out. It goes out to the MacPhail family. We’re surrounded by the Davis family. All of our hearts are broken. I’ve known his nephew since his nephew was three years old.
And right now it goes out to the guards. You know, there was a moment the other day when my staff was in there and the family was in there, and a guard leaned over to Martina and asked her to hold it together, because, he said, "We’re just barely holding it together." He said, "My mom’s been praying for you guys for days." And there was a sense that if she started crying, the guards would start crying. And we have to remember that, you know, these are men, these are working-class men and women, you know, in a rural area, looking for a good-paying job to support their family. And this shouldn’t be part of it. They know they may have to execute somebody, but having to execute somebody in the midst of so much doubt, when the former warden, who used to be the boss here, is saying, "Stay the execution," former head of the FBI is saying, "Stay the execution," Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals, all saying, "Stay the execution," it’s absolutely inhumane. It’s not just a crime against Troy Davis. It’s a crime against our democracy. It’s a crime against those specific men and women who are called to hold down his left leg or his right leg amidst so much doubt, when even their old boss is saying, "Stop this. Don’t do it."
AMY GOODMAN: Some of the voices from Democracy Now! special broadcast, September 21, 2011, two years ago, when Troy Anthony Davis was executed by the state of Georgia. You can go to our website to see much more our coverage of the case of Troy Davis as well as the full six-hour broadcast and an interactive video timeline. When we come back, we’ll be joined by the three people who were there that night who continue to fight to abolish the death penalty today. We will be joined by Ben Jealous, now the outgoing President of the NAACP, Kim Davis, the sister of Troy Davis, and Jen Marlowe, who has written a book about Troy Davis called, "I am Troy Davis."
AMY GOODMAN: For more on the second anniversary of the execution of Troy Davis, we’re joined here in New York by three people who were there two years ago September 21, 2011. On the grounds of the prison where Troy Davis was executed. They continue to work on the death penalty. Kimberly Davis is Troy Davis’ sister and an anti-death penalty activist. Ben Jealous is the President and CEO of the NAACP, also with us Jen Marlowe, who co-authored the new book, "I am Troy Davis." With Troy Davis’ late sister, and longtime advocate Martina Davis-Correia. The book is just out this week on the second anniversary of Davis’ execution. It’s been released with a study and discussion guide about the death penalty developed by Equal Justice USA in partnership with Amnesty International and the NAACP. All three of our guests will be speaking at some of the events related to the book launch. But, first, I want to go to Troy Davis in his own words. This was May 2009. Amnesty USA activists had a conference call about Troy Davis’ case. Troy’s sister, Martina Davis-Correia, patched Troy in from death row.
TROY ANTHONY DAVIS: You know, everything we do today is going to clear the way for better tomorrow. Everything is coming to a head and people are starting to wake up more and more. It’s really inspiring for kids to get involved because that is what we really need, because they’re going to be our future, and to know that they’re concerned about human rights, about activist work and, you know, the justice system, it really gives me hope that things are going to change. This is just the beginning of something that is about to blow up to the point to the point where we are going to see some sort of success. We are going to win this fight. We are going to continue to open eyes, we’re going to continue to open these prison doors. We will continue to hold accountable all those that are in charge of this — these unjust systems. And together, we can realize that if we let our voice work and activism work be seen and be heard, that there’s nothing that we can’t change. A positive aspect of this world. We can correct all the wrongs if we just continue to stand together. And that is what is most important. We need to continue to stand together and educate each other and don’t give up the fight.
AMY GOODMAN: That was less than two years before Troy Davis was executed. Ben Jealous, where has the movement going from here? But let’s go back to Troy Davis’ case. You have Troy Davis who was convicted of killing an off-duty police officer, Mark MacPhail. He, for the decades he was in prison on death row, said he was not the killer, and he said that. Those were his dying words. What happened from there? How was it that seven of the nine non-police witnesses at the trial then testified — they recanted their testimony — said they had in some way or other been pressured by police to give the kind of testimony they gave? One after another, death warrant was vacated against Troy Davis. This was the fourth time they attempted to execute him and this time — Clarence Thomas was the point person on the Supreme Court in this case and ultimately they moved forward with the execution.
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: The most important thing that happened was that his sister Martina stood up and the rest of the family and the rest with her. You don’t get a great movement to free somebody from prison, really, unless their family stands up first. When I first met Martina in 1996 or so, she said that her brother was innocent, like a lot of people at the -[Unintelligible] say that their loved one on death row is innocent. And I told the same thing I told all the other family, folks, is bring us the evidence and we’ll fight like hell to free them.
So, fast forward about 13 years, I become President of the NAACP, she invites me down to meet with Troy on death row, and she has all the evidence. And she held me to my promise. It was just the way she was. But, the, um — that really made the difference. Savanna and the community, where Davis and Correia family is from is a relatively small community. So, a big family standing up and forgetting and not letting folks get away with this makes a difference in the community.
The hard part was that the two people who didn’t change their testimony, one of them was the primary alternative suspect and the other one was somebody who claimed on a dark night, in the middle of the night from over 100 yards away they could recognize a dark skinned black man standing under a tree in shadow. You know, it just all, but just sort of defied reason. And then more witnesses came through. So, he was put on death row by nine people. By the time the seven recanted, I think there were about six more or so, right?
AMY GOODMAN: Seven more.
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: Right, so, you might had about a dozen saying this wasn’t the guy. But, you know, the really remarkable thing, and you heard it in Troy’s words, was that this was somebody who also had an understanding of movement. His mom had been active in the civil rights movement. Who really understood that there were multiple types of victory that could be accomplished here. And we have started to see some of that. We abolished the death penalty in Connecticut, despite the fact that there has been a very high profile homicide, where we were able to maintain consensus and win. And we just abolished it below the Mason Dixon line for the first time in Maryland. Neither one of those things would have happened.
AMY GOODMAN: This is the what state that has abolished the death penalty?
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: I think it is the 18th. It’s the 18th. We, ultimately, the minimum threshold for abolishing in the Supreme Court is 26. You have to prove that something is both cruel and unusual. It is like a quirk of U.S. common law. In England it was cruel or unusual, but, we’re colonists, maybe we don’t know difference between and and or, we said and, it should have been or. Now we have to do both here. And so cruel is pretty easy with the death penalty, unusual is tough. The standard for unusual is a majority of states opposed, and that’s why we’re so focused on getting to 26 or more.
AMY GOODMAN: What’s the next date you’re focusing on?
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: Well, we’re focused on several. I mean, there’s some possibilities potentially in New Hampshire, in Delaware and Colorado. We came very close in the ballot in California without the support, quite frankly — well, without the, sort of, vigorous support of the Catholic Church. With the new Pope, who seems to have a more inclusive set of values, perhaps than the last Pope. There is hope that next time in California we might see more vigorous support of the Catholic Church. That could have made the difference right there.
AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned Colorado, the Governor, Hickenlooper, who is dealing with these massive 1,000-year floods right now in Colorado, actually did something unusual with the latest death row case where he has stayed that execution, but not commuted the sentence so the next governor will make the decision. So, Republican after Republican candidate is now saying who will kill him first.
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: Right, well, what was interesting is that when Hickenlooper did that, he actually mentioned the movement against the death penalty in the country. In fact, Maryland had just abolished it. And we are getting to a place where, quite frankly, more and more people are sort of openly conflicted about the death penalty. And that is a good thing, because it used to be that Bill Clinton wanted to be president he’d just stop and execute three people right in the middle of the campaign to let everyone know he was tough on crime. And now your seeing somebody like Martin O’Malley, perhaps the most ambitious, most southern governor — southern Democratic governor with the greatest horizon since Bill Clinton saying he’s going to abolish the death penalty on the way to trying to become president. That is a big change.
AMY GOODMAN: Jen Marlowe, why did you write this book and what does it mean that the book, "I Am Troy Davis," is co-authored by Martina Davis-Correia, Troy’s older sister, with Troy Anthony Davis himself?
JEN MARLOWE: Well, my process of coming to write the book, it actually started with your show, Amy. I had not ever heard about Troy, I had not ever heard about Troy’s case until the day after Troy survived his first execution date. So, it was July 17, 2007, I was watching Democracy Now! and you had Martina on talking about that narrow miss. And Martina also was also talking about her own struggle, the double struggle, fighting for Troy’s life at the same time that she has been fighting for her own life with breast cancer. And I immediately felt that this woman was a force of nature. That was clear, and I was curious to learn more about this brother who she was fighting to prove his innocence. So, I began doing some research online, quickly came upon the report that Amnesty International had put out. On February 1, 2007, they had put out the report "Where is the Justice for Me?" And that was what really galvanized Troy’s case, in many ways, because they had assembled all of the points of the case that Ben was just talking about, the witness recantation’s, the police intimidation and coercion, the lack of physical evidence. They had distilled all of that into this report. And once I read that and really realized what kind of travesty of justice we were dealing with, I just wrote a note to Troy in prison just expressing solidarity. He wrote back, we started a friendship. He found out I was a documentary film maker, so, he first planted the idea in my head. He said you should make a film about Martina. So, that idea was in my head and then about a year later I met Martina. She came out to Seattle where I live and we ended up having dinner with a friend of Troy’s house in Seattle, Megan Thomas, and in Megan Thomas’ back yard Martina mentioned offhand, you know, people keep telling me I need to write a book but I don’t have time to do that. I need to work with someone on it. And what Troy had written in that letter came back to my mind suggesting that I might be a part of helping his family tell their story. So, I asked Martina if she would want me to be that person and we started.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to Troy Davis’ funeral a few weeks after he was executed. I spoke to Martina Correia about her brother’s life. Her quest to end the death penalty. And her own struggle to save her own life.
MARTINA DAVIS-CORREIA: I know my brother is happy because he is laying to rest with my mother, and they’re probably looking down on us asking us what our next move is. But, I think he already knows because this weekend has been such a powerful weekend and seen so many people come together and want to stand and fight want to change the laws. And we’re going to go to the Georgia state capitol and we’re going to start working on that gold dome and they’re going to have to listen to us because we are their constituents and we voted them in and we can vote them out. And I know that’s one thing that we’ve had to learn that we have to make people accountable who are speaking on our behalf. Troy made us all look within ourselves, and he made us see that there is goodness in all of us and that all of us have to continue to fight.
AMY GOODMAN: Are you going to be continuing to investigate Troy’s case?
MARTINA DAVIS-CORREIA: I will continue until I can prove that Troy is innocent and that the people who wronged him, I will make them accountable as well. And everyone will be brought to justice because I am not going to lay down and allow my brother’s death to be in vain.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think you will be able to abolish the death penalty in Georgia?
MARTINA DAVIS-CORREIA: I think we will be able to abolish the death penalty — I know we will be able to abolish the death penalty, because people all over the world are asking the question, why kill when there is doubt? And I want people to know that we are no longer going to accept that, not in our names.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, you have been fighting for your brother’s life and then there is your life. How are you feeling? You have been fighting breast cancer for a decade.
MARTINA DAVIS-CORREIA: Well, I am in remission, and so I’m doing good with the breast cancer. The fight for my life and the fight for Troy life has been two-folds. They used poison to kill my brother and they use poison to keep me alive. And so, I want people to understand that we are not supposed to kill people and we’re supposed to help people and I want them to know that Troy is just as much me as I am Troy. And I will never forget that.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Martina Davis-Correia speaking at Troy Davis’ funeral on October 1, 2011. She died two months later, December 1, 2011, after her decade-long battle with breast cancer. She was 44 years old. She was awarded by the National Breast Cancer Coalition, along with — well, at the time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — for their activism around cancer. It was Martina’s face that graced the sides of mammogram trucks in savanna, so she was well-known, encouraging women to get mammograms. Kim Davis, I know this is hard for you. This is your older sister and Troy was your brother. You are here today continuing the fight against the death penalty. Your thoughts two years later after the execution of Troy?
KIM DAVIS: Well, when Troy’s last execution, Troy gave each of us a charge. And he told us he wanted us to continue to fight to end the death penalty. And even with Martina, her last days that was with us, before she had gotten terminally ill, you know, the last couple of months, she told me — she said that you’ve been in the background, but you have also been in the forefront with me. She said, it is time for you to carry on the mantle and she said that we are going to continue to fight to end the death penalty. And she said, it’s time for you to be my voice. And that is what I’m doing, continuing to be the voice of Martina, continuing to be the voice of Troy.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, I wanted to talk about Troy’s conviction. He was convicted in 1991 for the killing of the off duty police officer, Mark MacPhail. The prosecution’s case rested entirely on witness testimony, but, seven of the nine non-police witnesses have said — said they were coerced by police and since recanted their testimony. Nine witnesses also implicated another man in the murder, one of the remaining witnesses who has not recanted, Sylvester "Red" Coles as the shooter. U.S. District Judge, William T. Moore Jr., refused on a technicality to allow the testimony of the witnesses who claim that after Davis had been convicted, Coles admitted to shooting MacPhail. In a court order, Moore summarized, Mr. Davis is not innocent. One of the jurors, Brenda Forrest, disagreed, she told CNN in 2009, recalling the trial of Davis, all the witnesses they were able to ID him as the person who actually did it. Since the seven witnesses recanted, she says if I knew then what I know now, Troy Davis would not be on death row the verdict would not be guilty. Talk about the significance of this. In fact you live in the community of Sylvester Coles. You see him.
KIM DAVIS: Yes, and funny how, you know, you talked about Judge William Moore, because at the evidential hearing that we had, me, myself personally, and my family did not think that Judge William Moore had Troy’s best interests at heart. Because, my brother’s life was on the line, and during the evidentiary hearing, I witnessed firsthand Judge Moore sitting on the stand with his eyes closed, like it was not of any importance to him. In savanna and state of Georgia and around the world, we can see that our justice system is actually broken. A judge is supposed to go into something with an open mind, not already have a decision on his mind, in his heart. We was grateful that we got an evidentiary hearing, but they actually brought my brother’s evidentiary hearing back to the 11th circuit, the same circuit that actually convicted him. There was going to be no way that he could have gotten anything, any success out of the 11th circuit. You had former police officers that came — say that they can remember the 1990s, they can remember the 1970s, but, you know, I can’t remember the 1980s; lead detectives. It was just like it was a mockery to them when they got up. They were laughing, laughing with the judge. But, that was a serious time in my brother’s life.
AMY GOODMAN: Ben Jealous?
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: Now, look, I think one thing that is sort of hard for some folks to understand is that a federal judge in the deep South is a deep south judge who is working for the federal government. They’re very much a part of the local law enforcement community. I think in a lot of Yankees’ minds, these are sort of like the judges came down after the Civil War, the sort of — a kind of blue —- union blue wearing representative of the federal government. But, that is not what you have. What you have is someone who has just been promoted up from the local law-enforcement community. And for the local law enforcement community, making sure that you execute somebody that it is a convicted cop killer is like job number one. There was a chilling moment when we were fighting with the warden, the last warden of that death row, when we were pushing -—
AMY GOODMAN: The previous warden, Allen Ault, right?
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: Had stood up and said, don’t execute Troy, there’s too much doubt.
AMY GOODMAN: This is the warden of the death row prison. And other prison wardens around the country joined him in that letter he wrote to the governor, Nathan Deal.
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: That’s precisely correct. And yet the last warden seemed to be on a mission. And we were fighting with him trying to get news media in there to interview Troy. I was talking to him about the doubt that his own guards had expressed and how cruel it was to force them to go forward. And he stopped me and said, well, that is why I’m not going to let anymore news media in here because I don’t want any more doubts about this and then he just cut me off and he said, well, you know I was law enforcement in savanna when this happened. As if that should mean that I should understand why he is willing to execute an innocent person for the killing of an officer. And so, it’s just important to understand that the judge is in that context. He’s not really representing, if you will, the highest ideals of the country. He is — ultimately was representing the priorities of the local law-enforcement culture.
AMY GOODMAN: What happened that night, a man was being pistol whipped in a parking lot and Mark MacPhail was an off-duty police officer, he went to his aid, and he was killed. Someone shot him, and the question was, who shot him? Jen Marlowe, you actually reached out to the MacPhail family, is that right, in writing the book, "I Am Troy Davis"?
JEN MARLOWE: That’s true. Towards the end of the process, I thought it was very important to reach out to the MacPhail family to let them know the book was happening and to invite their participation. The book is not trying to tell all sides of this story. It’s very much Troy’s story and Martina’s story and the Davis family story. But, Mark MacPhail is obviously, an important part of the book and I wanted his family to have the opportunity to help me really develop him as a character so we could show his humanity and his bravery. He was killed when he was doing a heroic act, coming to the aid to rescue a man being attacked. So, I talked to his mother, I explained what the project was and I asked if she wanted to participate and give me more information about Mark. And she was not interested and she said her family felt the same way.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to Martina Correia’s son, to De’Jaun, who is now at Morehouse College in Atlanta. During Democracy Now!'s special broadcast from the prison grounds and Jackson, Georgia, I spoke with De'Jaun Davis-Correia. He was 17 then. This is part of what he said the night of the execution.
DE’JUAN DAVIS-CORREIA: Yes, uh, but that hasn’t stopped me from making a very, very strong connection, a unique connection with my uncle. He only wanted the best for me, and that’s all he ever put it — installed in me over my years. And, you know, this — even if the execution goes on today, it will not break me down, it will only make me stronger, and that’s a thing that he installed in me to don’t let anything break you down, just go straight on, head on, and learn from it and be a stronger man than you are — than you once was. I’m being strong for my family and for myself. I will still — I’m going to still go out and speak on behalf of my uncle, fight for injustice everywhere. And just still be the young man that I can be to the best of my ability.
AMY GOODMAN: You visited your uncle every weekend?
DE’JUAN DAVIS-CORREIA: Well, we did when I was younger, then we started going every other weekend.
AMY GOODMAN: Where do you live compared to where he is imprisoned here?
DE’JUAN DAVIS-CORREIA: Just about four hours away.
AMY GOODMAN: What were those trips like for you?
DE’JUAN DAVIS-CORREIA:The trips — after a while, the trips became just second nature, it wasn’t anything serious at all. The trips are very fun. I have with my family in the car. And then we go to see Troy, I have another good time. And so it’s just very, very good eight hour trip there and back, and so, it’s nothing to be sad about. When we going there, it’s something we actually look forward to going to see him.
AMY GOODMAN: What has your uncle taught you?
DE’JUAN DAVIS-CORREIA: Respect is most importantly, dignity, honor, and just how to recognize injustice, how to recognize fairness and how to recognize peace all over the world. He always told me to keep my head in my books and just educate myself, and by him telling me that, I’ve educated myself to learn when someone is treating — being treated wrong and when someone’s human and civil rights have been violated. And since I know those things, it’s my right as a human being to stand up and fight against those things until those things are brought to justice.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re going to college, are you?
DE’JUAN DAVIS-CORREIA: Yes, ma’am, I’m going to — I plan on attending Georgia Tech for robotic engineering.
AMY GOODMAN: I spoke to her mother a few days ago, to Martina Correia, your uncle’s older sister. She’s extremely proud of you, and she says you won’t stop growing.
DE’JUAN DAVIS-CORREIA: Ah, no, I just continue to educate myself, continue myself in the loop of everything that’s going on. And being that — that’s how I got — that’s who I am today and I won’t stop until I feel that or I know that all human rights, all injustice, everything is just the way it should be.
AMY GOODMAN: You have actually trained as an activist. Can you talk about what kinds of things you have done during the summer and during the year?
DE’JUAN DAVIS-CORREIA: I have been mentored by Mr. Benjamin Todd Jealous, Mr. Larry Cox, various other leaders around this world, and just been taking bits and pieces of what they have done and studied them and put into me and try to form my own self as I grow up. That is all I can do, and I just take those things and I just, I run with them and I go from there.
AMY GOODMAN: That was De’Jaun Davis-Correia, Troy Davis’ nephew. He was 17 at the time, has now gone on to Morehouse College were he is studying physics and engineering.
JEN MARLOWE: De’Jaun is a phenomenal young man who is going to make enormous contributions in his life, who has already made enormous contributions. He’s an activist in his own right. We are trying to continue to raise money so that he can study at Morehouse, and so for folks who might be interested in helping support De’Jaun’s education and his cousin Kirstin’s they can write an email at email@example.com and we’ll send it back all the information about how they can help.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to this discussion. We’re talking to Kim Davis, sister of Troy Davis, Jen Marlowe, author of the book, "I am Troy Davis," which is out this week. Tonight, they will be holding an event here in New York at St. Mary’s church where Martina also held an event when Troy Davis was alive, speaking to him on the phone and putting that phone call on a microphone. We’re also joined by Ben Jealous, and want to find out from him what are his plans as he prepares to leave the NAACP and the projects that the NAACP is now working on.
AMY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman on this second anniversary of the execution of Troy Davis that took place September 21, 2011 in Jackson, Georgia at the death row prison there. Our guests are Ben Jealous, head of the NAACP, Kim Davis, Troy Davis’ sister, and Jen Marlowe, who has just written a book about Troy Davis called "I am Troy Davis." Could you read a page from the book, Jen?
JEN MARLOWE: Sure, I would be happy to. I’ll read a passage that was from December 1993. So, it was just a few years after Troy’s conviction when he was sent to death row, and this was actually one of the first executions on Georgia’s death row that Troy lived through.
“Troy had never intended to make friends on death row. But, there was something disarming about Chris Burger. He was tall, trim, strong and gave off a tough demeanor, but he showed warmth and affection to his friends. He sketched beautifully with colored pencils, often sending his drawings to his mother to whom he was devoted. He was older than Troy by more than 10 years but there is something vulnerable and childlike about him, perhaps stemming from history of severe childhood abuse.
Chris had been only 17 years old when he participated in the murder of Roger Honeycutt. When his execution date was set for December 7, 1993, he confessed to Troy how frightened he was. Troy saw the guards parading Chris sadistically in front of the other death row inmates on the evening of December 7th before leading him to the execution chamber to strap him into the electric chair.
Troy sat in his cell, hunched over on his bed, waiting for the horrifying moment when the lights would flicker, indicating that a high-voltage current of electricity was coursing through Chris’ body. Every man on the road twitched in silent agony when the flickering began at 9:50 p.m. Troy knelt on the hard floor, gripping the steel flame of his bed tightly, and prayed for his friend.
Only later did he learn that Chris Burger’s last words had been an apology to everyone he had ever hurt and a plea for forgiveness. One of the guards who had paraded Chris leaned against the bars of Troy’s cell, hey, Davis, troy heard the guard say. Troy looked up. Yeah? How do you like some fries to go with your burger? Troy resolved never to become quite so close to anyone else on death row again."
AMY GOODMAN: Jen Marlowe, reading from "I am Troy Davis." Ben, you are leading a campaign against the death penalty in the United States. What are the other campaigns that the NAACP is waging right now?
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: In this city we continue to, really, to fight to stamp out racial profiling.
AMY GOODMAN: Here in New York —
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: The campaign against stop-and-frisk has been one of our biggest national priorities. We stay focused on a whole range of issues, but, the chief one for us right now is defending voting rights. Our ability to defend all of our other rights as ultimately leveraged on our ability to defend our right to vote and exercise our right to vote. And the attack that it has come under has been withering. So, we’re very focused right now on restoring section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, stopping voter suppression bills across the country, and expanding voting rights wherever we can. The good news is that, this year, we’re actually winning more battles to expand voting rights at the state level than we are losing them against those who would suppress them.
AMY GOODMAN: Like where?
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: Big victory last year in Maryland, we’ve had several in the West and the North. Unfortunately, voting rights right now is sort of varied state-by-state. And in those states that are dominated by far-rightwing conservatives, that’s where we are fighting. But, in those other states, we decided just to focus on winning, making sure we have early voting and same-day registration.
AMY GOODMAN: And yet, isn’t it also being whittled away in states like Florida, such a key state.
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: Oh, yeah, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and then in the U.S. Supreme Court with the hobbling of section 4 truly hobbles section 5 and makes us quite vulnerable in the former Confederacy. But, the good thing is that people are fighting and we are winning and we believe that we have a real chance in the next 12 months to restore section 4 of the voting rights act.
AMY GOODMAN: The Stand Your Ground laws and the Trayvon Martin case, George Zimmerman was handcuffed September 9th, his wife had accused him of punching her father in the face and said she was going to be divorcing him, that she was afraid of him, he went to visit the gun factory where the gun was made that he used to kill Trayvon Martin.
BENJAMIN JEALOUS: George Zimmerman is the poster child for why we ought to get rid of Stand Your Ground laws. He’s a self-appointed vigilante who killed an innocent boy because of the fears in his mind, nothing that the boy was doing except for being black and walking down the street. And I think that we can look forward, starting probably in 2015, when the states reconvene for their legislative sessions to repealing Stand Your Ground laws in many states. In the meantime, our biggest success has been stopping the spread of them, and that is just as important.