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Life’s lessons from Death Row

By Troy Anthony Davis

Some of you think it’s cool to skip class and even skip school. Others think being part of a gang is cool as well. You’re all wrong! There are negative responses in all of us, but doing what’s right makes you a better person. I’ve been where you’re at and I’ve already been up where some of you are headed if you don’t change your ways.

When I was your age, I thought I knew how to pick the friends who were cool but I was wrong. We skipped class, school, and on occasion did other things I regret.
Not one, but all of us ended up in prison or dead. The decisions of today decide your future. People who tell you its cool when you’re doing wrong aren’t friends at all. True friends inspire you to be a better person and they’ll always speak up when you’re doing wrong instead of egging you on.

Every time I got into trouble, they all abandoned me but as long as I had a car or money they were always around. I couldn’t see then what I know now but hanging with the bad so-called crowd put me on death row for a crime a so-called friend committed.

Although I tried to stop him, he turned on me and within hours he got a lawyer and told the police I committed the crime (murder) that he committed. Instead of the police believing the witness, they threatened them and encouraged them to back up my so-called friend’s lie.

I’ve been on death row now since 1991 but I’ve been locked up since 1989 while he’s been enjoying life and bragging about putting me in prison. He said it was him or me.
Just like you, I thought I knew how to pick my friends. Even the rest of my friends caved in to police pressure and testified against me. Stupid me-I tried to keep it real and keep my mouth shut but is it worth losing my life over it? Don’t make my mistakes; make better decisions. Would you be as stupid as me and continue bad habits and bad choices? For all of you that think, “Not me,” wake up and realize you are better off not having friends at all if they don’t inspire you to do what’s right.

I was a good student and a better person but I was blinded trying to fit in with the wrong crowd. How long will it take you to break the cycle and choose a better way of life? Be real with yourself not others. No one can truly see or predict their own future but you can learn from someone else’s mistakes. If you need a real friend, choose your parents or a sibling.

Some of you think your parents can’t even comprehend what you’re going through but you’re wrong. On a different level, they all have been where you’re at and seen similar actions. As I look back to my childhood, every warning my parents gave me about my friends came true but I refused to believe they understood.

I can see my mistakes now but can you? Surround yourself with positive people and take your education seriously and only then can you have a successful future.
If you’re out with someone who’s been drinking or doing drugs, don’t allow them to drive. Call your parents to pick you up. Trust them, and remember that they’ll appreciate the fact that you can make sound decisions, and came to them when you needed help. I pray this poem and essay open your mind instead of a casket or prison cell.

How Long?
Troy Anthony Davis

How long will you bang if everyone is banging too?
How long will you slang if others slang more crack than you?
How long will you hustle when you’re being hustled too ,
by a friend, a foe, and even your crew?
How long is your street credibility after the streets have captured you?
How long?
How long will you be like them (the thugs)
Long enough to meet the (grim reaper)
How long I ask because you may beat them to the grave and become death’s slave.
How long will it take before you realize your homies are bustas and fakes.
How long will you sell drugs frontin like thugs when you can’t read directions on installing light bulbs?
How long will you be the man if your homey’s a snitch and you’re on death row doing his time because he dropped the dime?
How long can you keep it real with them when they are fake in the hear corrupting you from the start?
How long?
If you have no answer by now then there’e a cell next door waiting on you,
No love for a wannabe thug.

Silencing our Joy

By Martina Correia

Troy Anthony Davis is Prayer fully closer
to his walk to Freedom!

September 25, 2008

My name is Martina Correia and I am on death row, because that is where my brother lives. I am not convicted of murder - my only crime is of loving my brother Troy.

People congratulate me on being a wonderful sister and champion for my brother and they sometimes question why, and my answer is simply, “If you really knew Troy and could sit down with him for 30 minutes, you would know. Troy is the type of brother who makes your life so much richer, so much fuller, and so much easier and because he is on death row, awaiting execution, it also makes my life so much sadder.

Last year as many of you know, Troy came within 23 hours of execution, this past week he came within 90 minutes. It has been such a rollercoaster ride for my family, my siblings, my mother, my son and especially Troy. A ride I pray none of you ever experience, the last 48 hour visits, the saying goodbye, the charge you give the family for the future and the tears and fears of the pending state murder.

My brother has been on death watch, isolated from his peers for weeks with a small television that provides him two “hard to see”, stations, a small radio and an occasional phone call to family and friends. It seems the more celebrity and media support the Troy Davis case garners the more he is punished by the prison. They constantly change the rules to discourage his spirit, yet he remains prayerful and in good spirits as if he were in a secret sacred place where God is with him.

For example prisoners under death watch can call their friends and family as often as they would like. For Troy there is a special phone that is monitored. Instead of usually costing $5.50 per 15 minute call, the charge to our family and friends is almost $9.00 a minute with no explanation from the prison. For Troy most of his numbers to family and friends are being restricted or blocked. Then the rules changed again and in the last 48 hours they told Troy he could only use the phone twice a day for 15 minutes and that included attorney calls. The last 24 hours they took his witnesses to execution off his list saying they can be taken off at the discretion of the Department of Corrections, including the Clergy of his choice. They have also threatened me that if I let the media or anyone other than family talk to Troy on the phone he will have no phone privileges at all. It is like physiological torture and they are angry because it has not penetrated his spirit, no his faith. Through all of this and Troy remains unwavering, with no anger, still prayerful, still hopeful, still thankful.

As I sit here on my bed, exhausted yet full of joy and uncertainty, feeling the effects of 7 ½ years of constant chemotherapy, I am reflecting on the day of September 23, 2008, as we entered the grounds of the Georgia Diagnostic & Classification Prison, where I wanted to cry but I could not, I wanted to yell but I could not, I wanted to leave but I could not.

Then I watched the expression on my son’s face- for the first time in his 14 years of visiting death row, he witnessed, more than 100 SWAT, Tactical Squad officers, corrections officers with dozens of dogs, shot guns in hand, all because the state of Georgia wants to kill his Uncle Troy. I have only seen such police force on television from the civil rights era. My first thought was be polite, follow directions and make sure we are safe. My second thought was how powerful this case has become and that they fear Troy being kept alive will shake the judicial system and expose the truth and my final thought was full of worry as to how they must be treating my brother inside those prison walls. As we enter the prison where the handicap elevator has not worked for almost a year, we have to practically carry two relatives up two flights of stairs. In visitation they allowed 5 people in at a time, we are all mindful of the clock. I am standing conducting the visits, praying no one asks me, “How are you doing, can I get you anything,” then scanning the room looking away from any friend or relative that may be about to cry.

Well visitation is over and we are rushed out at 3pm on the dot. I take my mom and family to the New Hope, a place where death row family members are embraced. I get into my car to head back to the prison to meet Rev. Al Sharpton - we enter the prison grounds to see an overwhelmingly large number of police-then there is the media waiting to pounce on us. Guards come over to slip in a shout out to Rev. Sharpton and then we enter a roped off area meant for supporters for Troy.

A complete stranger or so I thought, a small Caucasian women from Texas who has heard about Troy’s case, asks “Are you Martina?” I replied, “Yes.” Then I realized it was a lady that sent me an email, that no matter what she has to do, she just wanted to be there for Troy. Meanwhile the press is running to capture our voices as a bus load of supporters are also entering the area.

Then we learn about the stay of execution from one of the attorneys. We are so happy, excited, prayerful and now hopeful. Troy’s last prayer began with a prayer for the McPhail family, and then our family and the people who have lied against him, after which he asked God to spare his life.

As of now-the state is so ready to kill Troy they have already set up the time for his final visits- 6 to 9 p.m. on Monday and requested a new list for his final visitors.

This is a letter of thanks to all the activists, clergy, lawmakers, lay people and those who believe in human rights and human dignity. On behalf of my family, myself and most importantly my brother Troy we say thank you, but we know the fight is not over and we pray the United States Supreme Court votes to take Troy’s case, which will surely have national ramifications in protecting the Innocent in respect to the appellate process. My heart is filled with so many emotions as I see human kindness flourish on behalf of Troy and because of Troy. I cannot express the blessing you all have become to my family and to my brother Troy, who receives so many letters. He is overwhelmed and elated.

I guess you are all wondering why I am telling you this in a thank you letter. Well the fight we face is still so very real and your work is therefore needed even more, your voices to tell Troy’s story, your passion to fight for his liberation, your determination to understand that the case of Troy Anthony Davis is not an anti-death penalty movement. The case of Troy Anthony Davis is about Innocence, justice and challenging a government system in Georgia that is hateful, spiteful and defiant. When they cannot defeat us they attack Troy, and he is willing to face the attacks if we are willing to continue the fight!

Martina Correia

Below you will find a message my brother Troy mailed to me on September 22, 2008 the night before his scheduled execution in Georgia, it was for all the people who believe in Justice and in him, so I hope you get a small glimpse of what Troy’s spirit is really like.

To all

This is a message from Troy Anthony Davis

I want to thank all of you for your efforts and dedication to Human Rights and Human Kindness, in the past year I have experienced such emotion, joy, sadness and never ending faith. It is because of all of you that I am alive today, as I look at my sister Martina I am marveled by the love she has for me and of course I worry about her and her health, but as she tells me she is the eldest and she will not back down from this fight to save my life and prove to the world that I am innocent of this terrible crime.

 As I look at my mail from across the globe, from places I have never ever dreamed I would know about and people speaking languages and expressing cultures and religions I could only hope to one day see first hand. I am humbled by the emotion that fills my heart with overwhelming, overflowing Joy. I can’t even explain the insurgence of emotion I feel when I try to express the strength I draw from you all, it compounds my faith and it shows me yet again that this is not a case about the death penalty, this is not a case about Troy Davis, this is a case about Justice and the Human Spirit to see Justice prevail.

I cannot answer all of your letters but I do read them all, I cannot see you all but I can imagine your faces, I cannot hear you speak but your letters take me to the far reaches of the world, I cannot touch you physically but I feel your warmth everyday I exist.

So Thank you and remember I am in a place where execution can only destroy your physical form but because of my faith in God, my family and all of you I have been spiritually free for some time and no matter what happens in the days, weeks to come, this Movement to end the death penalty, to seek true justice, to expose a system that fails to protect the innocent must be accelerated. There are so many more Troy Davis’. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this Unjust system city by city, state by state and country by country.

I can’t wait to Stand with you, no matter if that is in physical or spiritual form, I will one day be announcing,

Never Stop Fighting for Justice and We will Win!

Continue reading Page 2 of this month’s Featured Writing 

Read "Between Life and Execution: The Troy Davis Story" by Kavita Chhibber

Listen to Kavita’s special Webcast interviews with Troy Davis, his mother Virginia and his sister Martina Correia

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