CS: Cindy Sheehan
MC: Martina Correia
CS: Welcome back to Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox. I am your host Cindy Sheehan and you are listening at CindySheehansSoapbox.com.
Our guest today is Martina Correia sister of recently executed Troy Anthony Davis. It’s a very timely and meaningful show and I know that there is a lot of things going on around the country with the Occupy Wall Street movement and Occupy everywhere movement and that’s very important and here at the Soapbox personally we are in solidarity with that but I don’t think we should forget the sacrifice and martyrdom of Troy Davis and work really hard against the institutional inequalities that keep allowing executions in this country. The death penalty and the inequality of so called cop killers being murdered by the state when killer cops get to basically go free with just a slap on the wrist.
Martina Correia welcome to Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox.
MC: Thank you for having me.
CS: First of all I would like to extend my profound condolences and the condolences of many of the Soapbox listeners who told me to pass on their love and support for your family.
MC: Thank you.
CS: There is one issue I am very interested in myself from my own son’s death in Iraq and that’s accountability. I read where you are working to hold the people accountable for your brother Troy’s death and what I want to know is who are the ones who were wrong and how can we hold these people accountable?
MC: One of the things is the parole board. The parole board is not a judicial body and so we go in there with court documents, proof, witnesses stuff like that and the other side, the victims side come in after us and they are able to say whatever they want to say even though the judge has said you can not say these things in court because it’s not true they’ll start talking about different things. Like last time they were talking about bloody shorts and they were like there’s no such thing as bloody shorts. There was no DNA or anything else linking Troy to the crime. And then this year they decide they will start talking about there has to be shell casings, they found shell casings all over the city and they are like how many people turned in their shell casings and that’s how they linked one shooting. There was still not anything with Troy’s finger prints on there but still they came on and told the press that they linked Troy to the shooting because of shell casings and that they linked him to more than one shooting.
Those things are not factual and the parole board is made up of former prosecutors, former police officers and things like that and then when they vote that vote how they want to vote and they vote in secrecy. They don’t have to have any kind of legal entities talking to them or anything like that. They listen to the information and make a decision based on personal issues and personal feelings.
CS: Well and you have identified the parole board and their relationship to the police state apparatus and it’s inherently weighted against somebody who is unjustly part of the system and somebody who has literally their life in their hands but talk about the institutional inequalities of the system that actually railroaded your brother to death. Your brother was obviously to people who can read and think an innocent man.
MC: Yes, I believe that too. I believe that just like the gentleman in Georgia who just got a stay until February. The parole board was so nasty and they were about to deny him. This man would have been dead on Tuesday if a court had not stepped in and defended him. That’s how the parole board is. The parole board in Georgia if you say I am guilty but I am sorry then they will spare your life. If you want to fight the system and say I am not guilty, I did not do this, they don’t care about that. They think you are not remorseful and therefore they will make sure you are executed. They wanted Troy to plead guilty for life without parole but not a possibility of any kind of appeal. Troy said he could not plead guilty for something he did not do. Because the first thing people would do is say, we know he did it.
It was not worth lying and saying you killed someone when you didn’t. It takes a lot out of a person to admit that you’re more willing to die than to admit that you did something wrong when you didn’t do it. So you know I have the utmost respect for Troy because Troy said if they are successful in killing me then don’t allow my death to be in vain. He said the barbaric practice of the death penalty, the state sanctioned killing of the innocent need to stop. The anti-terrorism and effective death penalty act of 1996 needs to be abolished because not only has it been instated in 1996 but President Bill Clinton made it retroactive 10 years, which is against international civil rights law.
So Troy’s case should not have been affected by it anyway because his case happened in 1989. So they made this law retroactive so when the witnesses started coming forward and telling the truth Troy’s case never had a chance because they said, well we don’t have to listen to your actual innocence because of the anti-terrorism bill. So it’s like you don’t have a chance from the beginning. They tried to keep Troy voiceless by denying him access to the press, denying him access to any media outlets, any radio, any shows like that. They would threaten him with. We’ll take your family visitations away from you if you are caught taking to the press or the media.
CS: Well Troy couldn’t express remorse for something he didn’t do but I heard him express his sorrows for the family who lost their loved one and he actually said, "I hope you don’t let this end and actually get the real person who killed Officer McPhail but it wasn’t me."
CS: And if I am correct wasn’t one of the witnesses that didn’t recant his accusations actually implicated in the murder himself?
MC: Could you repeat that question?
CS: Yes. One of the witnesses who did not recant his testimony against your brother was actually one of the people implicated in the murder and had everything to gain by…
MC: There was another witness Sylvester Coles who did not recant and he was the only one who actually had a weapon on the scene and he did not even tell police that he had a weapon on the scene. And when they asked him, why didn’t you tell us you had a weapon, he said, because I am a convicted felon and I am not supposed to have a weapon, and they asked him, what do you use your weapon for? And he said, it’s for protection. My question is protection from whom? So you know he drinks, he’s drunk; I don’t know what else he does. But I know he was the one that pointed the finger at Troy and up until then they had no knowledge of anyone who had shot the police officer.
When he went into the police station they didn’t know what was going on and then when he did come in there other witnesses including Larry Young who’s sister was saying, that’s the guy, that’s the guy right there that attacked me. The police officers said, oh no, you have the wrong guy he’s helping us with the investigation. So you know, it is what it is. But I mean how do you have more than one person in a parking lot where a police officer gets killed and you do not charge both people with accessory? You know you don’t charge the other person with accessory when they even lied about having a weapon and then when they ask where is your weapon? Oh I gave it to so and so. Well so and so say you didn’t give it to me. Oh I hid it in the bushes. Um oh I don’t know where it is and the next thing they say is oh I threw that gun away. There was never a subpoena to search their home or any of their private things to find the weapon. They didn’t really look very hard to find this weapon.
CS: I’ve noticed and you probably have more information on this than me but if a police officer gets killed somebody has to pay for it, somebody has to die and it doesn’t matter really if that person is guilty or innocent.
CS: That’s one of the institutional inequalities that we have. I am from California and we had the Oscar Grant killing, a young black man got killed by the San Francisco PD for not paying bus fare and when there is killer cops they barely get a slap on the wrist.
MC: Right, you know that’s why we need to get rid of the death penalty because it’s a selective process. You know they give the death penalty to people who can’t fight back. I mean if you look at big serial killers and big people that get all the media attention and everything at the beginning of their trial you have lawyers lined up to defend them because it is going to be on television and it gives the lawyers an opportunity to be seen. Then you have people who don’t have lawyers. Don’t have the resources to pay for the lawyer and you’ll be the first to offer them a vehicle out of town or something.
CS: Right, it’s very hard to be a poor person of any color and get justice on our system. So this question is difficult for me sometimes when people ask me this question so if you don’t feel up to answering it. We all know Troy Anthony Davis as a symbol of anti-death penalty work, as somebody who courageously struggle against a system and we all know it is very hard to do that. But you became involved in this partially to say that Troy Davis is not just a symbol he is my brother, a person. So you made it a very personal struggle. If you feel up to it can you talk a little bit about Troy your brother?
MC: My brother was the type of person you know we lived in an upper middle class black neighborhood in Savannah. We had the 2 cars the boat, the fence, the house. We had both parents growing up so we were children that were very blessed. Troy was very shy everybody called him a mama’s boy including himself. Most of the time when you find Troy you find him at home. He’ll cut the grass, wash the dogs. I had a sister who was diagnosed at 13 with MS and Troy had left day school and enrolled in night school so when my sister got out of the hospital my mom wouldn’t have to miss work Troy would take care of my little sister and my brother. That’s what he did for a long time. He took care of them. He did my sisters hair and took her to therapy and things like that.
A lot of people don’t know that and they would put in the paper that Troy dropped out of school when he graduated with honors. There are pictures of him in the Savannah news press where he graduated with honors. We played football. We didn’t have soccer back them so he played baseball and football. When he got to be a teenager he helped out with the coaches as an assistant junior coach. We played ball for the police athletic league. We had the police athletic league in our neighborhood because the police actually ran it. He wanted to do something with the kids so that’s what he did. He got the kids a little league thing in the neighborhood and we played ball. People made a thing where he hated the police but we played ball with the police athletic league. Half of our subdivision was police officers.
Actually the present police chief lived around the corner. It was not like we were a bane on existence if Troy was he had probably been the juvenile and also the (undistinguishable). A lot of the things they put in the paper were not true. The Savannah news press, when a black person is accused of doing anything they put everything but your mothers social security number in the newspaper they try to degrade you. You’re convicted of everything before you ever go to court. Nobody pays any attention. They just read what’s in the paper and that’s pretty much about it. It’s really weird the way that they do that but Troy was always the type of person that believed in the ideals that my parents taught us, especially my father. You tell the truth and things will always work out right.
Well, he told the truth this time and it didn’t work out right. So I gave up my military career so I could make sure things work out right for him and it’s become a long struggle. A long fight and things like that. But Troy is the type of person that was very shy and we just had to get an adjustment to the things that was going on. So was the type of person where if he had a girlfriend he had one girlfriend they would be together for years. He wasn’t one person that would go from girl to girl to girl and all these other things. Troy was just a simple nice person. If he needed to cook dinner for my brothers and sisters he cooked dinner for my brothers and sisters. That’s what he did.
CS: How did he find himself in that situation to be accused of being a murdered?
MC: Could you repeat that?
CS: How did he find himself in that situation of being accused of being a murdered? Was he just in the wrong place at the wrong time?
MC: Troy was the type of person that would always help someone else. He was always kind of sticking his nose in where it didn’t belong to help someone else. So behind the garage door, the door was down or loose in the hinges and I guess when the police came barging in the doors that’s when our family kind of found out what was going on. But Troy had a car that my mom gave him and the transmission was going out so he would be home on the weekends and working in Atlanta during the weekdays at different construction sites making money because he was going into the Marine Corp. I was in the Army, my father was in the Army and Troy wanted to go into the Marine Corp. That’s why I actually had to come with him to fill out paperwork for physicals and stuff like that.
So when he found out about it he called home and said there must be some kind of mistake. I’ll be home and I’ll go down there and answer some questions and tell them what’s going on and they’ll let me go. But they never interrogated Troy. Until the day Troy died the Savannah Police department never interrogated him. All they did was when he turned himself in all they asked him was where was his gun. He said he didn’t have a gun and they said where’s your gun? And he repeated, I don’t own a gun. Next thing I know they had him locked up and gave him an arraignment date and then they crucified him in the Savannah News Press.
CS: You’ve taken this personal tragedy and made it your personal quest and I’ve read that because of you and your work that hundreds of thousands of people have come to the anti-death penalty movement. Can you tell my listeners how they can become involved or more involved in that movement and especially in your quest for accountability?
MC: I was in the United States Army. I am a Gulf War Veteran of Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In order for me to help my brother I had to give up my military career. I never expected to have to do that but I was willing to do that to save my brothers life. It was really amazing because I wanted to help my brother and I specifically asked him, did you do this, did you have anything else to do with this? And he said, of course not. He said I didn’t have anything to do with this man being killed. He said not today, not yesterday, not tomorrow. He said I wouldn’t lie about that because Troy was a junior deacon and that church and he said I could not take anybodies life and so you know he said if I had to do it because I was in the military then that would be my job but to randomly shoot somebody over a can of beer. Because he was trying to stop a homeless man from being pistol-whipped.
I mean if somebody stole your bicycle in the neighborhood Troy would go to the person and say look, I will give you 10 dollars just give the child his bicycle back. I mean he was a peacemaker. He wasn’t a person who was an agitator or a fighter or whatever. I mean people had respect for Troy. Even when he went to jail people had respect for Troy. And they always did until he got this last warden who was so nasty to Troy we couldn’t figure out why he was so nasty to Troy? Troy has been there twenty years and has not gotten into any trouble and suddenly he has gotten a new warden and suddenly he has gotten this meanest man on the planet. The warden and them were trying to agitate him but he wouldn’t allow that. Troy was a very prayerful and faithful person he believes strongly in his faith and he believed that was going to carry him through. Troy did not try to cause problems with the system. Troy wanted to find more about his case he read every detail and all the statements to try and help himself so that he would be up on his case.
CS: How can people help you in your cause?
MC: They can go to Amnesties website www.aiusa.org and they can out in Troy’s name in the search engine. It’ll have all the things that we are doing and the things that we will be doing. They can text the word Troy to 90999. They can go on the national NAACP website www.naacp.org. They can go on Troy’s website www.troyanthonydavis.org and any of thee things they can find out ways to help Troy Davis and Troy also has a Face Book I think it has all his information on there. And he can tell them what their doing. They can go and do different things. They can come up with there own things. We are working on legislation to get rid of the death penalty in Georgia and in the South.
We’re trying to expose the old laws we have here because it seems to me that ever since Obama became president that we’ve had some other issues in the city and then Troy’s case has been so out there in the public that a lot of the old time racist comments that people thought were dead and gone they’ve just been hidden. People are saying all kinds of vile things not just about Troy but about other people and it’s really amazing because I wonder how these people go sit in their place of worship and then they are still spouting racism. It’s kind of like it never went away. It just subsided. I never thought in this day and time I would have an argument with my child’s teacher about the way my child is being treated because a teacher does not like my brother and I have had to come across that in the last couple of years and that’s very sad.
There’s many ways to get involved and I just tell people to stand up where they are even if they develop their own system for getting involved. Writing letters to the president, writing letters to Eric Holder and asking them for a judicial investigation into the circuit, There are various things that can be done and we are just asking people to get involved and find out what we are doing and don’t allow Troy’s death to be in vain and we need to continue to work on this issue.
CS: Thank you Martina and thank you for your strength and you courage too. My last question is how are you holding up. I know you are also battling cancer and personally I know this is a very emotionally draining time for you. How are you doing?
MC: Actually I am doing fine. I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in 2001 and I was given 6 months then. I am actually in remission. A lot of people think that I am having all these problems with cancer and that but I am in remission and the problems I am having is not necessarily with having cancer but with the side effects from the medication that you take to prevent cancer from coming back. That’s the thing I have been fighting so my thing is taking chemo for 10 years even though it is a small dose has had it’s effect on your body and things like that. But other than that I am in remission, I am doing well I just have to battle the symptoms of cancer and cancer related illnesses. So that’s what I am working on now. So tell people the thing is I take poison so I can live. They gave my brother poison so they can kill him. There should be something wrong with that picture.
CS: Well I know that there is a lot of hatred and racism in this world but I hope you do also feel the love and support and are able to draw some strength from that.
MC: I will.
CS: Okay Martina Correia thank you for being on Cindy Sheehan’s soapbox.
MC: Thank you.
THANKS TO DEDE MILLER FOR TRANSCRIBING THE SHOW.
THANKS TO DEDE MILLER FOR TRANSCRIBING THE SHOW.