Our Racist Justice System: How Troy Davis Has Spent 20 Years on Death Row, With Little Evidence Against Him
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The execution was stayed less than 24 hours before it was to be carried out. The following year, Davis came within 90 minutes of lethal injection.
In addition to dealing with his uncle facing execution, and while carrying a full load of advanced placement classes in his high-school’s International Baccalaureate program, De’Jaun lives with the stress of his mother being critically ill. Martina has been battling stage-four breast cancer since De’Jaun was six years old. Her original diagnosis was six months or less. That was ten years ago, and Martina, who is far tougher than her willowy frame might suggest, is still fighting.
De’Jaun has always turned to his Uncle Troy during hard times. Martina first brought De’Jaun to death row to meet his uncle when he was six weeks old.
“You would think I gave [Troy] a gold bar,” Martina recounted. “Troy was scared to hold him. I literally had to just put De’Jaun in his arms and walk away. And he was like, ‘But he’s so little. Come, get him, get him, get him.’ And I was like, ‘No, you get him. You hold him.’ ” Martina smiled at the memory. “It was just such a magical moment, because it was like I was giving my brother this gift.”
As a tiny boy, De’Jaun didn’t understand that his uncle was incarcerated, much less slated for death. De’Jaun told me, “When the family was getting ready to leave after a visit, I’d say, ‘Come on, Troy, let’s go, let’s go!’ But he couldn’t go with us, and my mom would say, ‘He’s in school. He can’t come. One day, he’ll come home with us.’”
As De’Jaun grew older, Martina explained to him that his uncle was in prison. But she had not yet told him that Georgia planned to kill him. When De’Jaun was 12 years old, it became clear to Martina that her son understood far more than she had realized.
Their dog, Egypt, had gotten out of the yard and had been hit by a car. Martina and De’Jaun immediately brought Egypt to a vet who told them that the dog’s leg was broken in three places and would need extensive surgery to be repaired. If Egypt did not have the surgery, she would have to be put to sleep. The cost of the surgery, the vet told Martina, was upwards of $10,000.
As Martina drove De’Juan home, she wondered how in the world would she come up with $10,000. Putting Egypt down might be the only realistic possibility.
In the silence of the ride, De’Jaun turned to his mother. “Mom, are you going put my dog to sleep like they’re trying to put my Uncle Troy to sleep?”
“I looked at my son, and he was looking at me…. I had to swallow this giant lump in my throat to hold back the tears,” Martina recounted. “I didn’t know that he related the two things. That he knew they were trying to kill his Uncle Troy. And he knew about which method that they wanted to [use to] kill him. At that point, I decided … [even] if I had to pawn my car, I wasn’t going to be able to put my dog to sleep.”
Killing Troy Davis
De’Jaun’s realization that the state of Georgia wants to kill his uncle using methods similar to putting an animal to sleep has added relevance today. Georgia traditionally used a three-drug cocktail in its lethal injections. One of the drugs, sodium thiopental, anesthetized the victim. But the only domestic manufacturer of sodium thiopental, Hospira, discontinued its production of the drug last year, which sent states scrambling to obtain a stockpile.