Martina Davis-Correia, the older sister of death row inmate Troy Davis and one of his most dogged supporters, has died, according to the NAACP. She was 44.
The cause of death was breast cancer, according to USA Today.
Davis's case became a cause celebre before he was executed by the state of Georgia in September. Davis was convicted in the 1989 shooting of Mark MacPhail, a police officer in Savannah, Ga. The legal proceedings became a rallying point for opponents of the death penalty, who argued that there was too much reasonable doubt in his case for him to be executed. Following Davis's conviction, seven of the nine prosecution witnesses recanted their testimonies, and a prosecutor said in the following years that he would not have pursued the case had so much doubt been introduced during the trial. His defenders included the nobel laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu, and William S. Sessions, the FBI director under Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Clinton.
Correia was one of his most vocal supporters and defenders.
In a blog post at the Huffington Post, Correia wrote about the agonizing decision to tell her son, Antone, about his uncle's impending death and her own health problems. "In addition to dealing with his uncle facing execution, carrying a full load of advanced placement classes in his high-school's International Baccalaureate program, my son lives with the stress of me being critically ill," she wrote. "I have been battling stage-four breast cancer since De'Jaun was six years old. My original diagnosis was six months or less. That was over ten years ago."
The week before Davis's execution, Correia made an emotional, symbolic gesture in his defense by getting up from her wheelchair. "I'm here to tell you that I'm going to stand here for my brother today," she said. Correia, a trained nurse who served in the 1991 Gulf War, then stood up on stage with the help of others around her.
Davis maintained his innocence until the end, and with his last words he asks his supporters to keep searching for the truth. "All that I can ask is that each of you look deeper into this case, so that you really will finally see the truth," Davis said moment before he was put to death. "I ask to my family and friends that you all continue to pray, that you all continue to forgive. Continue to fight this fight."
"Although cancer took her body, her beautiful spirit has touched me and the world in ways I never knew possible," Robert Nave, a death penalty opponent, wrote on Correia's Facebook page. "I will celebrate her life, although through my tears, as we all will miss her so dearly."
Correia and Davis's mother died several month before Davis's execution. Correia said that she was glad her mother was not around to see her son put to death.