A former Army flight nurse who’d served in the Gulf War, Martina Davis Correia had most recently been fighting two very different battles at once.
She was a champion for her brother, Troy Davis, for just about half her life. Mr. Davis was the Georgia death-row convict whose fight for clemency in the face of shaky evidence sparked protests, and brought worldwide attention to his case. That fight did not save his life, but it brought the death penalty back into the spotlight, and into serious question.
The other battle she was fighting was with Stage IV breast cancer, balancing her treatments with her activism. Less than three months after her brother was killed, she died last night at the age of 44.
She recounted her now-17-year-old son’s actualization of what was happening to his Uncle Troy in a moving Huffington Post column:
As De’Juan grew older, I explained to him that his uncle was in prison. But I had not yet told him that Georgia planned to kill him. He confided in his uncle more than anyone else. When De’Jaun was 12 years old, it became clear to me that my son understood far more than I had realized.
Our dog, Egypt, had gotten out of the yard and had been hit by a car. We immediately brought Egypt to a vet who told us that the dog’s leg was broken in three places and would need extensive surgery to be repaired. If Egypt did not have the surgery, she would have to be put to sleep. The cost of the surgery was upwards of $10,000.
As I drove De’Jaun home, I wondered how in the world I would come up with $10,000. Putting Egypt down might be the only realistic possibility.
In the silence of the ride, De’Jaun turned to me and said, “Mom, are you going put my dog to sleep like they’re trying to put my Uncle Troy to sleep?”
I had to swallow this giant lump in my throat to hold back the tears. I didn’t know that he related the two things. That he knew they were trying to kill his Uncle Troy. And, he knew about which method that they would use to kill him. At that point, I decided that if I had to pawn my car, I wasn’t going to be able to put our dog to sleep.
Shortly after learning about her death last night, I heard from Liliana Segura, an associate editor at The Nation. She had known Ms. Davis Correia well from their time together on the board of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. Prior to publishing her own remembrance today, Liliana forwarded me the words of the campaign’s former executive director, Marlene Martin:
In one of my last conversations with Martina she told me someone in France had emailed her to say they were sorry that despite all of their efforts and protests for Troy, they had failed. Martina said, “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.”
That is always how she was. She refused to be defeated. She always looked to the positive, she always looked to ways we could mobilize to win.
More words of condolence from Laura Moye of Amnesty International, who was at Ms. Davis Correia’s bedside when she passed on.