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US anti-death penalty campaigner Martina Davis Correia hailed as 'true hero' of human rights

Sister of Troy Davis fought long battle against cancer and the death penalty

Following the announcement that Martina Davis Correia, the long-time US activist against the death penalty and sister of Troy Davis, has died from cancer, Curt Goering, chief operating officer at Amnesty International USA, paid tribute to her:

“Our hearts are breaking over the loss of this extraordinary woman. She fought to save her brother’s life with courage, strength and determination, every step of the way. 

“She was a powerful example of how one person can make a difference as she led the fight for justice for Troy Davis, even as she endured her own decade-long battle with cancer.

“And despite the terrible blow of his execution, she remained brave and defiant to the core of her being, stating her conviction that one day his death would be the catalyst for ending the death penalty.

“Even as Martina’s health failed, she was making plans to continue her work against the death penalty in her brother’s memory, as he urged his supporters to do just before he was put to death.

“She was a tenacious fighter, a graceful inspiration to activists everywhere, and a true hero of the movement for human rights. At this sorrowful time, we at Amnesty International offer our profound sympathy to her family.”

Martina received many honours for her death penalty abolition activism as well as her work to raise awareness to prevent breast cancer. She was chair of the Steering Committee for Amnesty International USA’s Programme to Abolish the Death Penalty and, for 11 years, served as Amnesty’s coordinator in Georgia for the death penalty programme.

In 2010, Amnesty’s Irish section awarded her the Sean McBride Award for Outstanding Contributions to Human Rights, and the year before she received the Georgia Civil Liberties Award from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Frederick Douglass Award from the Southern Center for Human Rights.

Martina’s brother Troy Davis was executed on 21 September this year in the US state of Georgia despite significant doubts over the safety of his original conviction and a high-profile “Too Much Doubt” campaign, with over one million people worldwide signing a petition to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles calling for them to intervene to prevent the execution.

Davis had been on death row for over 20 years - since being convicted in 1991 of the killing of an off-duty policeman, Mark Allen MacPhail, who was shot in Savannah, Georgia in 1989. Davis had always protested his innocence and there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime.

Since his trial seven out of nine prosecution witnesses had recanted or changed their initial testimonies in sworn affidavits and in 2007 Amnesty published a report detailing a pattern of police coercion of witnesses ahead of Davis’ trial. Meanwhile, ten people pointed to one of the remaining witnesses as the actual killer.

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