On Saturday, the UK’s Guardian published an obituary for Troy Davis written by his 17-year-old nephew, Antone De’Jaun Davis Correia.
Up until shortly before Davis will executed, his nephew visited him every other week from the day he was born. Only July 17, 2007, a then-13-year-old De’Jaun sat in a courtroom and listened to a judge announce his uncle’s first execution date. “We went to go see him, and he wasn’t really worrying about himself. He was mostly worried about his family. About us. I was looking at my grandmother. She was praying, praying, praying. It was a lot of people constantly praying, constantly praying,” De’Jaun told Colorlines.com earlier this year. He says he remembers that court date vividly.
In the obituary, De’Jaun says Davis “became a father figure to me” until his execution in September.
It’s been an unimaginably difficult year for the boy. In May, De’Jaun lost his grandmother. Then, earlier this month, his mother Martina Davis Correia lost her courageous battle with breast cancer.
My uncle, Troy Davis, was arrested in 1989 and sentenced to death in 1991, three years before I was born. He was in jail my whole life, but I knew him very well. I visited him with my mother — his sister — on death row in the Georgia state prison every other week until his execution in September and he became a father figure to me.
Troy was wise, respectful, motivated and a great listener. He didn’t like the position he was in but said he had to learn from it, and used that experience to give me advice. He told me to pick the right friends and not to run away when things got rough; to keep my head up in school and take criticism positively. My uncle was a good family man before he went to prison. My grandma used to tell me that when he got a paycheck he’d give half to her to help pay the bills at home. He was responsible and respectful from a young age.
On 19 August 1989 a police officer called Mark MacPhail was shot dead in a car park in Savannah. My uncle was there at the time and, based on eyewitness testimony, the police decided he’d done it — but they had the wrong person from the get-go. Later we got lawyers to go through the case. They did very rigorous investigations and found there was no evidence to prove my uncle committed the crime — no DNA, no gunpowder residue, nothing at all. Most of the witnesses withdrew their original statements, and another man was implicated in the murder. We appealed, and the execution was stayed three times over the past four years, but on 21 September 2011 Troy was killed by lethal injection.
It was a tough time for my family. My grandma had died in May, so we lost two important parts of the family in the space of five months, but I think we coped pretty well. You’ve just got to learn from things and keep moving. My uncle’s death opened a big can of worms for Georgia and all the other death-row states. The case provoked a huge amount of debate in the US, and we received support from people all over the world.
“He told me, just continue to do good in school, do what’s right, pick the right friends, watch over the family, and just respect the family. Respect my mom, my grandmother, my aunties,” De’Jaun said about his uncle to Colorlines earlier this year. “Do what you love and have a good profession.”
“What Troy did for me in my life will never be forgotten,” De’Jaun said in Saturday’s obituary.
De’Jaun hopes to go to Georgia Tech to study robotic engineering.