Troy Davis’s sister made an expressive, symbolic statement before he was scheduled to be executed Wednesday in Georgia.
Martina Correia, who is fighting breast cancer and uses a wheelchair, told the crowd and media gathered, “I’m here to tell you that I’m going to stand here for my brother today.”
Correia, a trained nurse who served in the 1991 Gulf War, then stood up on stage with the help of others around her.
As a means to understand sibling behavior as it relates to grief and trauma, The Christian Post reached out to Dr. Heidi Horsely, an internationally known grief expert and licensed psychologist and social worker.
“I don’t think sibling death destroys our lives. But I do think it defines our lives,” said Horsely who often speaks at workshops and seminars on the topic of siblings, grief and finding hope after losing a brother. Horsely is also an adjunt professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work and is well versed in sibling deaths as it relates to crime and tragedy.
Troy Davis was convicted of murdering Mark MacPhail, an off-duty police officer in 1989. Davis' execution was delayed Wednesday as Georgia officials awaited a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Davis' family last saw him between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Wednesday when there was still hope that his execution might be stopped. The execution was postponed briefly by the Supreme Court for a legal review, but at 11:08 p.m., Davis, 42, was dead from a lethal injection.
Davis was one of five siblings but Kimberly Davis and Martina Correia are two of his sisters that have publicly spoke out about the death penalty and provided numerous media interviews.
There were many reports about the grief of slain police officer Macphail’s family and his mother in particular. However, Horsely reminds us that Davis’s sibling’s grief also cannot be ignored.
“It must be a living hell. It must be so difficult for them. That’s a major loss, they’ve lost the future they grew up thinking they were going to have,” Horsely explains.
In the last four years, numerous supporters including prominent advocacy groups and celebrity supporters have said Troy Davis is not MacPhail’s killer. But Davis’s sister Correia surpassed the ardor of any person or group rallying support for her brother’s cause.
Amnesty International’s Wende Gozan Brown refers to Davis’ sister Correia simply as “a force of nature.”
A decade ago, Correia was diagnosed with breast cancer, and has battled the disease while working with advocates to keep Troy Davis’ name at the forefront of the death penalty debate.
Correia didn’t flinch when someone suggested they collect petition signatures supporting her condemned brother at the funeral of her mother who died last year in April, saying it’s what their mother would have wanted.
In recent weeks, Correia’s health has declined. According to Davis’s other sister Kim, an adverse reaction to cancer drugs put her in the hospital about a month ago.
Correia continued to help coordinate rallies and events of blocking her brother’s execution despite family members taking away Correia’s cell phone and laptop, in an attempt to force her to rest.
“We’re going to fight like we always do,” Correia said last weekend.
Kim Davis says her family remained positive, doubting that Troy Davis’ guilt would sway Georgia’s pardons board to grant him clemency last Monday. However, clemency was denied.
Last weekend, Kim Davis refused to consider the alternative - that her brother’s fight could end with his execution. When a funeral home worker asked her to fill out paperwork authorizing a hearse to move her brother’s body from the prison, she signed the form but refused to write her brother’s name on the document.
“I told her I’m not putting his name on it, because I’m looking for victory. Victory over death,” Davis said last weekend.
Davis, the middle of five siblings says the family has never questioned her brother’s innocence.
After Kim Davis was hospitalized with multiple sclerosis at age 14, she said her brother left high school to help care for her while their mother worked during the day. At night, Troy studied for and later earned his GED.
He would come to her bedside at the hospital and brush her hair or rub lotion on her hands and feet. Two years later, he prodded her to start walking without crutches. She recalls taking two steps toward her brother, and him taking two steps back.
She never knew him to have the callousness of a killer.
“Even if you have a sibling who has done something horrific, you’ve seen him or her at their best. You’ve seen so many sides of them. You know them like no one else knows them and vice versa,” Horsely told The Christian Post.
Kim Davis said prison bars couldn’t break her bond with Troy. And now after the execution has occurred, it doesn’t seem their bond will ever be broken.
"When we left my brother yesterday, my brother told us to hold our heads up and be strong because if the state of Georgia did succeed in executing him, they would only take his physical body and not his soul," she said, crying at times. "My brother said he only wanted to be a free man and right now, he is free."
And the fight to bring down the death penalty continues.
"We're going to carry on and continue to fight to bring down the death penalty," she said. "This fight didn't start with him and it's not going to end with him."
And that’s just the execution. Horsley explains what the Davis’ siblings might have gone through in the 22 years while he was on death row.
“They must have been tormented. That must have been awful,” she said.
“We are who we are today because of our siblings. We’d be different people without them. Siblings are parallel travelers in our life’s journeys. To lose them is monumental. It is a very intense loss,” she said.
“His sisters are going to continue to advocate for him,” Horsely said with utmost confidence. “That’s because we never give up on our siblings.”