01 December 2011

In Memoriam: Martina Davis Correia

Martina Davis Correia passed away tonight. Martina had a long eleven-year battle with cancer, and at times, was winning. But today she rests in peace.

Martina was an incredible woman. I came to know her through our mutual work against capital punishment. She fought tirelessly for her brother, Troy Davis, who was on death row in Georgia.  But she also fought tirelessly for all those on death row. A brave and courageous woman, Martina inspired so many in this world.

Below are a few photos that I captured of Martina, mostly outside the Georgia prison where her brother was ultimately executed on September 21 of this year. I recently wrote about my experiences being there with Martina as her brother was dying, which you can read here.

Here is an excerpt from my article:

Just after 11:00 pm, I was with Laura Moye, the Death Penalty Abolition Campaign Director for Amnesty International USA. Martina brought a young woman over to us and introduced her to Laura. Martina told Laura that this college student, Monica, had driven, by herself, from California, to protest the execution. Martina told Monica to give her contact information to Laura to get involved in the work to end the death penalty. Laura handed Monica a notepad and pen, and Monica provided her information. It was an extraordinary scene, which I took a photo of [pictured below]. Martina, who could have been overwhelmed by the tragedy of the moment, knowing her brother could be executed at any time now, chose to still keep organizing, connecting activists for the cause.

All along we have said that this is not just about Troy Davis, it is about justice, about fairness, and about an end to state killing. Martina embodied that in this moment. With her brother at the end of his life, she was still unselfishly committed to making sure there were no more Troy Davises.

Immediately following this exchange, Benjamin Todd Jealous, the President of NAACP, called the crowd together to announce that word had come out of the prison that the execution was happening. All eyes quietly focused on the ground, or into the sky. Martina and the rest of Troy's family were in the center of the circle, surrounded at this moment by love and community. We stayed there, like that, until a chant of "I AM TROY DAVIS" grew from the inside, and resonated into the still of the night.

Two days later, I finally brought myself to look at the photos I had taken that night. My emotions were still raw, and I didn't want to relive Troy's execution yet. But I felt a responsibility to get the photos out into the world, given my unprecedented access to the scene.

As I went through the images, I stopped on the photo of Martina bringing the college student over to the Amnesty International director to trade contact information. I looked at the time that the photo was taken. 11:08 pm. The exact minute that we now know that Troy Davis died on the gurney.

I broke down in tears. These were not tear of sadness, but tears of admiration and hope. In the photo Martina isn't looking at anyone around her, but is looking off toward the prison. Somehow deep inside, she must had known what had just happened. You can see it in her face. But even in the darkest moment of tragedy, the tireless work of Martina, all Troy's family, Amnesty International, NAACP and the countless worldwide supporters of human rights carried on. There was no giving up, even in that moment. The work to end the death penalty continued, right then and there.

Martina, we will always remember you.

Above: On the prison grounds on the night of Troy's execution, Martina Correia (sitting) introduces Monica, a young student from California (holding sign), to Laura Moye of Amnesty International USA (at right) so that Monica can get connected with Amnesty's death penalty abolition work. Martina gazes off toward the prison while Laura collects contact information from Monica. At this exact minute, at 11:08 pm, Troy Davis died. 

Above: Three hours before Troy's scheduled execution in September 2011, the family of Troy Davis address the media at the final press conference across the street from the prison. Martina Correia, sister of Troy Davis, who has been ill from a 10-year battle with cancer and recently confined to a wheelchair, rises from her chair, saying "I am here to tell you, that I am going to stand here for my brother today. I am Troy Davis. You are Troy Davis. We are Troy Davis!"

Above: Martina gives interviews to media on the prison grounds hours before Troy was scheduled to be executed in 2008 (an execution that was stayed). 

Above: In September 2008, at 5:24 pm, Rev. Al Sharpton and the family react to hearing that the U.S. Supreme Court has ordered a stay of execution. Troy would not be executed until three years later.

Above: Martina clutches her cell phone to hear Troy's voice less than two hours before he was supposed to have been executed in 2008. 

Above: Martina, holding hands with her mother, Virginia Davis (who passed away since then), in a parking lot across from the prison in 2008 to give thanks for the stay of execution.

Above: Martina in her car conducting media interviews in September 2008 the day her brother was to be executed.

Above: Martina (at right) with death row exoneree Shujaa Graham (left) viewing my death penalty photo exhibit in Philadelphia in December 2008.


  1. Thank you for sharing this. I have been opposed to the death penalty since I was 16. I worked on appeals for capital cases, as an investigator, in Calif. more many years. Of course, I followed Troy's case. And then we met his sister thru the media. Amazing sister, amazing woman. We will end this penalty and re-do this unjust system of prisons. We will.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. Martina was a woman of courage and compassion. Her passing is another tragedy. May she now be safe, free of all pain and in the arms of God. My thoughts and prayers go to the Davis family for their loss.

  3. Scott, I will forever remember Martina with your inspiring and evocative photography in my memory's eye. Thanx for the way you help us all to REMEMBER...

    Connie L. Nash


  4. This old world will beat you down Martina your pain , your fight is over u can know rest your sprit with God ,Love you my sister

  5. Martina's and Troy's work will only grow in strength. Thanks to you both for all you've done for the struggle. We'll keep it going.

  6. Beautiful text. Powerful photos. Thank you so much for sharing.

  7. Very powerful Scott.
    Thank you.

  8. Dear Scott,
    I'm with News & Letters and we would like your permission to use your photo of Martina talking to the media in 2008. We're running an article about her in our next issue. You can find us at www.newsandletters.org. We can't pay, but would, of course credit your work. Could you please let us know ASAP if it is possible to use your fine photo as we are in the midst of laying out the paper. You can reach me at: terrymoon@gmail.com
    Thank you for your consideration.
    For freedom,
    Terry Moon, Managing Editor, News & Letters