A call to action from Troy Davis

September 15, 2011

Marlene Martin, national director of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP), describes the unfolding struggle to save an innocent man from the death chamber.

AFTER MANY long years of fighting, we are now down to the last few days to save the life of Georgia death row prisoner Troy Davis, who is scheduled to be executed on September 21.

On Tuesday, I received a letter from Troy in the mail and wanted to share it. At first, I wondered why the penmanship seemed scrawled. Then I read his note, and I understood. He had to write it using only pieces of a pen. They have taken everything from him except his eyeglasses.

Yet his call to action is strong and mighty:

Hello Marlene,
I received your letter. However, they took all of my mail, my address book and the only property I have is my eyeglasses. I'm writing with the filter of a pen because I'm not allowed the entire pen. With all these security rules, they only allowed me to write down your address. I don't remember everything you said in your letter, but I wanted to thank you, your family and CEDP for everything.

It is time for action, so please encourage everyone to reach out to politicians, ministers and grassroots organizations to contact the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole and the governor to grant me relief and stop this scheduled execution. Get involved in this movement to put an end to the death penalty. Come to Georgia and take a stand for justice. Let them know I'm blessed and my faith in God is stronger than ever. Now we have a chance to join together and be heard loud and clear that Georgia needs to stop this execution of an innocent man and end the death penalty altogether.

Excuse my writing but its hard using the funnel only. God bless you and keep up the great work you're doing.

Sincerely, Troy Davis

Supporters demand justice for Troy Davis in Atlanta
Supporters demand justice for Troy Davis in Atlanta

THESE NAIL-biting moments are all that is left to try to convince three of the five members of the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant clemency for Troy, who has run out of his legal appeals.

If the board does grant clemency, Troy will receive either a life sentence or life without the possibility of parole sentence. This "good" outcome has its own cruelties that we will continue to fight against as soon as we win it--but first we have to win it!

The way the system works in Georgia is that the parole board makes decisions on clemency, not the governor--while he appoints the members of the parole board, the governor has no clemency authorization and can't override the board's decisions. President Barack Obama doesn't have powers here either--he can't grant a pardon in a state criminal case. Of course, if he were to weigh in with vocal support for Troy, that would have a tremendous impact. But Troy's supporters fear that isn't likely.

The board will hold a clemency hearing in Troy's case on Monday, September 19, in Atlanta. This could last for hours--one previous clemency hearing for Troy lasted 10 hours. The board will likely make its decision at the end of that day. Activists will hold a vigil outside the hearing all day long.

What you can do

A Global Day of Solidarity for Troy has been called for September 16. In Atlanta, supporters will meet at Woodruff Park downtown at 6 p.m. Or organize an action in your own city--find out what's going on locally at the Campaign to End the Death Penalty website.

Get everyone you can to contact the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles and support Troy. Call 404-656-5651, e-mail [email protected] and fax 404-651-8502.

Devote time at a meeting of your union or organization to spread the word about Troy and get people to show their support. Consider whether you and fellow activists can hold a speakout for Troy--and try to write an article for your school newspaper or church bulletin, and contact local radio stations and other news outlets to urge them to cover this case. Hold a petitioning event in your community for Troy. Fact sheets, petitions, and clemency letters are available at the CEDP website.

You can write to Troy at: Troy Anthony Davis #657378, P.O. Box 3877 GDCP, G-2-39, Jackson, GA 30233. You can write to Troy's sister Martina at: Martina Correia, 169 Parkview Road, Savannah, GA 31419-9671.

We don't know how this struggle will go, but as Darby Tillis, a former death row prisoner from Illinois, told me yesterday, "We must continue to be strong, remain vigilant and fight to the bitter end."

A strong show of support for Troy, both for the Global Day of Action called for September 16 in Atlanta and other cities around the world, and for the vigil outside the clemency hearing on September 19, will be extremely important. These could be the very things that tip the balance.

So far, the response to this threat to Troy's life has been amazing. By all accounts, there will be thousands of people marching in the streets of Atlanta for Troy on September 16, and then attending a rally afterward in the famous Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church where Martin Luther King Jr. was a pastor.

Rev. Jesse Jackson will make the trip down to Atlanta with his son; Troy's family will be attending; former prisoners will be there, including Lawrence Hayes, Darby Tillis and Mark Clements of the Campaign; and so will members of Amnesty International, the NAACP (which says 2,500 of its members will march) and many other social justice and campus groups. A contingent of Campaign to End the Death Penalty activists will travel to Atlanta to march, too.

Banner drops in support of Troy will take place on college campuses in the lead-up to the march, as well as continuous petitioning and flyering in Georgia and around the country to get the word out to everyone to come out and show their support for Troy on September 16.

THE OTHER day, I called Troy's sister, Martina Correia, hoping to get a few words with her. Martina has been the heart and soul of the struggle to save Troy over many years, even while she was suffering terribly with breast cancer.

When I called, her son answered the phone and explained that she was too ill to talk--that she was, in fact, on her way back into the hospital. I asked him to pass a message of love and support along to Martina, and assure her we were doing all we could to mobilize people to defend Troy.

Her son then told me he had the phone on speaker, and I heard Martina say in a weak voice, "Hello Marlene--thank you." I burst into tears hearing her voice. This strong woman is the reason the struggle for Troy is as big as it is--because of her tireless work for years on end, speaking at meetings large and small, and traveling every week to visit Troy. Her brother has been on death row for 19 years--do the math, that's a lot of visits, and death row is hours away from her home.

I thought about how Martina was always ready to speak to anyone and tell the truth about Troy. She always answered her phone, even one time she did so with laryngitis. Even now, she was making sure her son was taking the calls.

I thought about Martina's son, who is now in college--what he has had to go through seeing his mother going back in the hospital, being too sick to visit her brother, and having to deal with the threat of the execution of his cherished uncle Troy.

But when Martina heard me, she had nothing but determination in her weak voice, telling me I shouldn't cry and that everything was good.

Someone who visited Troy recently said he was in good spirits and thankful for everything every one was doing for him--and that he urged everyone to keep up the pressure. But Troy had one weak moment, and that's when he spoke about his sister Martina--that's when the tears came to his eyes.

As Darby Tillis told me, "This man has faced three previous execution dates. Three times he has been through this torture--they just can't kill him."

But we know they can. If Martina and all the people who rallied for Troy, whether in the courtroom or in the streets, had not been steadfast in standing for him over these years, he would already be dead.

Now we all have to step up and do what we can--to stand up for Troy, to be Martina's legs, and to demand clemency and an end to the death penalty.


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