For my birthday, would you be so kind….

emily-and-daddy-cropped-13September 21 is my birthday.

It is also the second anniversary of the execution of Troy Davis by the state of Georgia, and also day #921 in the Syrian civil war, which has forced about six and a half million people to run from their homes into an unknowable and deeply frightening future.

Every year on his birthday, actor Nathan Fillion (Buffy, Waitress, Castle, and most importantly: Firefly) asks people to give to his favorite water charity; it’s a lovely thing, and some years, I’ve even done as he asked. And so, inspired by Mr. Fillion, I’ve decided to do a similar thing, if on a much smaller scale (I mean – I know you love me as much as you love Nathan Fillion. There are just a few million fewer of you. Is all).

If you enjoy this blog, or my writing over at The Daily Beast, or the piece I just ran on xoJane (of which, by the way, there will be more in the future), or if you like my Tweets, or, heck, maybe you know me personally and maybe I make you laugh every now and then — and if you have a little spare dosh to pass around — please consider celebrating my birthday in one of the two following ways:

  1. troy davis suitIn Troy’s memory, please purchase I Am Troy Davis, published this week and written by my good friend Jen Marlowe and Troy’s sister, Martina Correia-Davis, who died of breast cancer soon after her brother was killed. It’s the story of Troy, his remarkable family, and the on-going struggle to end the death penalty. (And not for nothing, but Jen is a hell of a writer). Can’t say it better than Susan Sarandon: “I Am Troy Davis is a painful yet very important book” — unless it’s Maya Angelou: “Here is a shout for human rights and for the abolition of the death penalty. This book, I Am Troy Davis, should be read and cherished.” If you make your purchase through the non-profit publisher, Haymarket Books, it’ll cost you $18.
  2. There are more than six million Syrians who have run from their homes in fear. About two million of them have crossed international borders; more than four million remain within their war-torn country, trying desperately to get by. There is so little that we can do to reach out and help the Syrian people — but we can reach out to support the folks working night and day to support them: Please donate to the UN Refugee effort. This is how I’ll be honoring my own birthday, and all who have raised and loved me so far.

    Syrian refugees filling their buckets at Atmeh refugee camp, in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, Syria, Apr. 5, 2013 source

    Syrian refugees filling their buckets at Atmeh refugee camp, in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, Syria, Apr. 5, 2013 source

And hey, if you happen to be Nathan Fillion? Thanks for everything, man. And please celebrate my birthday with me.

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Troy Davis’s nephew got accepted to a prestigious college – but tuition is tough.

dejaun*

You will remember Troy Davis, executed by the State of George two years ago for a crime he did not commit. While fighting for his life and for an end to the death penalty, Troy was particularly involved with and proud of his nephew De’Jaun, and was known to regularly help De’Jaun study for tests over the phone from death row.

An excellent and dedicated student, De’Jaun was accepted to the prestigious Morehouse College (where the President spoke this past May), but his family has been beset by sorrow after sorrow in recent years (all of them also costly): A few months before Troy was executed, De’Jaun’s grandmother/Troy’s mother suddenly died; then Troy was killed; then De’Jaun’s mother/Troy’s sister Martina, long living with cancer, also died — all within about eight months.

And of course, no matter what, tuition is never easy. My friend Jen Marlowe (who produced the videos about Troy’s case for Amnesty, and has written a book about his case and his family) has organized a fundraiser for De’Jaun — if you have a few extra dollars, De’Jaun could surely use the help with his school expenses.

We couldn’t save his uncle, and we couldn’t save his mom. But maybe we can help him through school. That’s what community does. If you’re in a position to help, please click here.

Troy Davis’s birthday.

Troy Davis should be turning 44 today; instead, we just marked the first anniversary of his unwarranted execution at the hands of the State of Georgia.

My friend Jen Marlowe, the filmmaker behind those powerful videos produced by Amnesty International in the fight for Troy’s life, produced the following video in his memory, calling on all of us to continue the work that Troy began from his prison cell, the work to abolish the death penalty. One way to do that is to support Amnesty in their fight against the death penalty; another way is to work for the passage of Prop 34 in California, which would abolish the death penalty in that state, and replace it with life in prison without possibility of parole.

In Troy’s own words:

We can correct all the wrongs if we just continue to stand together, and that’s what’s most important. We need to continue to stand together and educate each other, and don’t give up the fight.

We are all Troy Davis, now.

Reggie Clemons, sentenced to die.

Please note update, below.

A year ago today was Troy Davis’s last full day on earth. Tomorrow will be the anniversary of his execution, an execution carried out despite not just reasonable but breathtaking doubt.

Today, Reggie Clemons faces a horrifyingly similar circumstance, convicted and sentenced to death as an accomplice to the murder of two young women in 1991, despite a disturbing number of problems in the case against him, including: a lack of any physical evidence, compromised eyewitnesses, allegations of police brutality, prosecutorial behavior described by judges as “abusive and boorish,” a stacked jury, and inadequate legal representation — and then there’s the question of race.

Victims Robin and Julie Kerry drowned in the Mississippi River after falling from the Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis. Their cousin Thomas Cummins originally confessed to the acts which led to one young woman falling and the other jumping to try to save her, but charges against Cummins were dropped after he identified other suspects, among them Clemons. The Kerry sisters, Cummins, and one other codefendant were all white; the other suspects, all African American. After a lengthy legal process (including testimony from the white co-defendant, Daniel Winfrey, who reportedly told a friend he would lie to get a plea bargain — because he knew his word would be taken over that of a group of black men), Winfrey was given a deal and released on parole in 2007, co-defendant Marlin Gray was executed in 2005, co-defendant Antonio Richardson is serving a life sentence, and Clemons was scheduled for execution on June 17, 2009. I’m unclear as to when Missouri’s Supreme Court granted a stay and appointed a “special master” to hear evidence in Clemons’s case, but that hearing began on Monday.

The Guardian ran a great package summarizing the case last month, including video in which Clemons tells the reporter:

I remember the police mainly beating me in the chest…. While they were beating me they were telling me what they wanted me admit to…. If you believe that someone is willing to beat you to death, while they’re beating you they can just about get you to admit anything.

A reporter who’s been covering the case in the US tells The Guardian:

The day that Reginald Clemons is sentenced to death, Thomas Cummins…gets paid $150,000 to settle a police brutality case. The police brutality that Thomas Cummins alleged was indistinguishable in detail from what Reginald Clemons alleged. And Reginald Clemons is sentenced to death. Partly on the basis of the confession that was beaten out of him which shouldn’t have been allowed in court.

The Guardian reported in August that the new hearing was expected to last a week — which means that Reggie Clemons’s fate may well be decided in the next few days.

In an editorial that appeared today, The St. Louis American saw reason for hope in questions posed by the special master, Judge Michael Manners:

At another point, Judge Manners interrupted Jeanene Moenckmeier, one of Clemons’ original trial attorneys. She had been called to the stand to testify about a troubling piece of evidence that prosecutor Nels Moss was requested to provide in Clemons’ jury trail but never did turn over to the defense. It is a copy of a draft police report on Cummins, the first suspect in the 1991 murders of Julie and Robin Kerry who became the prosecution’s star witness. Moss admitted in court to hand-correcting the draft police report, dated May 6, 1991. Most of Moss’ changes, which made Cummins look less guilty and more credible, were made in the final police report, dated May 31, 1991, that was entered into evidence in Clemons’ jury trial.

“Did you have a copy of the May 6 report?” Judge Manners interrupted to ask Moenckmeier. She said, “No.” Judge Manners followed up, “Was the May 6 report introduced in court?” She said, “No.”

This suggests that Judge Manners takes very seriously the fact that a prosecutor would tamper with a police report in a capital trial and then withhold evidence of his tampering when asked to provide it to the defense.

In the words of the editorial writer:

Whatever one believes actually happened on the Chain of Rocks Bridge on the tragic night of April 4, 1991, a trial where a prosecutor is allowed to change a police report to benefit his case, and then not provide that evidence to the defense, is not a trial whose verdict should be respected. 

The day before he was killed, Troy Davis released the following statement:

The struggle for justice doesn’t end with me. This struggle is for all the Troy Davises who came before me and all the ones who will come after me. I’m in good spirits and I’m prayerful and at peace. But I will not stop fighting until I’ve taken my last breath.

We are the only ones who can carry on the work to which Troy Davis and his family dedicated themselves. In his memory, and in the name of justice for all, please go to Amnesty International, and take action for Reggie Clemons.

UPDATE: The Special Master hearing is likely to go on for some time, possibly into next year, and Amnesty says this is probably a good thing.

Please help Troy Davis’s family.

Troy Davis & his family in a picture taken before the prison cut off "contact visits."

Readers of this blog will remember that I spent a few weeks this fall laser-focused on the case of Troy Davis, an innocent man on Georgia’s Death Row who, despite all evidence against him crumbling over the course of his incarceration, was executed on September 21. You can read the pieces I placed in The Atlantic online here: “Explaining the death penalty to my children” and here: “Troy Davis and the reality of doubt.”  You’ll find the post I wrote the day after Troy was murdered here.

I spent several weeks laser-focused on the Troy Davis case, but some people have spent several years, such as my friend Jen Marlowe. Working with Amnesty International, she did everything from producing a powerful series of videos telling his story, to counting signatures calling for the state of Georgia to spare his life. She came to know and love the Davis family, and her work on their behalf continues — in no small part because their tragedies didn’t end with Troy’s execution.

Indeed, the tragedies didn’t even start there. Troy’s mother Virginia died suddenly in April 2011, a death her daughter Martina was sure was a result of simple heartbreak over Troy’s failure to win a commutation of his sentence. Martina herself had been struggling with breast cancer for a decade when Troy was killed; two months after burying her brother, Martina herself died. The boy they all left behind, De’Jaun Davis-Correia, is an outstanding high school student who looked up to his uncle as a father-figure and is today hoping to attend Georgia Tech, where he wants to major in industrial engineering. It is a sign of the strength and the beauty of this family that De’Jaun is already a dedicated death penalty activist, and has been named by The Root as one of its “25 Young Futurists” for 2012. I cannot imagine how he gets up in the morning, much less makes plans.

But sorrow and loss aren’t the end of it. Three funerals in the space of seven months and years of cancer-related hospitalizations have resulted in bills that would overwhelm anyone.

For that reason, Jen (who is currently working on a book about Troy and Martina) is raising funds for the Davis family. Here’s the letter she sent out this week:

The Davis family lost three warriors for justice in the past seven months. Virginia Davis, the matriarch of the family, passed in April, just two weeks after the US Supreme Court denied Troy’s final appeal, paving the way for the state of Georgia to set a new execution date. According to Martina, her mother died of a broken heart–she couldn’t bear another execution date. Troy was executed on September 21, despite an international outcry over executing a man amid such overwhelming doubt. Troy’s sister and staunchest advocate, Martina, succumbed to her decade-long battle with cancer on December 1, exactly two months after her brother Troy’s funeral, leaving behind a teenaged son.

There are still outstanding medical and funeral bills that the Davis family must pay.

The Davis family has had to bear more tragedy and sorrow than any family should ever have to. Together, we can ensure that the financial aspect of these losses will not be a burden to them.

I have set up a simple way to contribute online to the family. I hope you will choose to help, and that you will share this information with others. All you have to do is click this link: https://www.wepay.com/donations/fund-for-troy-davis-s-family Any amount will be highly appreciated and will help them greatly!

Please circulate this information to others you think may be interested in helping.

Any questions can be directed to Jen Marlowe at donkeysaddle [at] gmail [dot] com.

In solidarity with all the Davis family has been fighting for and in sorrow for all they have had to endure,
Jen Marlowe
Troy Davis Campaign

If you are in a position to help, please do so. As Jen says, any amount will be helpful, and in the end, all the little amounts add up. Please also pass the word along to any and all who might be able to join in the effort.

Troy Davis is not here to help his family through this ordeal — those of us who fought for his life must now do so for him.

Death penalty abolition advocate Martina Davis-Correia, sister of Troy Davis, has died.

Martina Davis-Correia, surrounded by friends and family on the day of her brother Troy Davis's execution. Her son DeJaun, who Troy helped to raise from behind prison walls, is standing directly behind her.

Martina Davis-Correia, sister of Troy Davis, died last Friday. Diagnosed with breast cancer a decade ago, Martina was given a prognosis of six months — she stayed alive, she said, to fight for her brother. That fight lost on September 21, I can’t help but feel that her own battle must have become much harder.

In the course of struggling for her brother’s life, Martina became a leading figure in the movement to abolish the death penalty: “Even as Martina’s health failed,” Amnesty International said last week in a statement honoring her life, “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.”

But the losses of Troy and Martina are not the only ones the Davis family has suffered this year — their mother, Virginia Davis, died unexpectedly in April. I’m not sure what I believe about the after-life, but I know that the Davis family has long shared a deep Christian faith (Troy would regularly lead a prayer circle for the family at the end of their visits, even when new prison rules would no longer allow him skin-to-skin contact with his family). I hope that the Davises and all who love them are finding some comfort in the idea that Virginia, Troy and Martina are with each other again.

Unsurprisingly, fighting both breast cancer and her brother’s death sentence did not leave Martina or her family with much money. Her friend Jen Marlowe — my friend, too, and the filmmaker who produced the Amnesty videos about Troy’s case — is helping to raise funds to help the Davis family pay for Martina’s funeral and her outstanding hospital bills.

I cannot help Troy or Martina in any way anymore, and I cannot help their family much. But I can give a little of what I have to help them pay their bills. I can help take one worry off their shoulders.

Please read the following letter from Jen, and if you feel that you can make a contribution — no matter how small — please do so. Let’s honor Martina, and Troy, and the mother who held them both in her arms as best we can.

***************

Dear friends,

As you know, funds are needed for the funeral expenses of Martina Davis-Correia, as well as her remaining medical bills.

The Davis family has had to bury three loved ones in the past seven months. Virginia Davis, the matriarch of the family, passed in April, just two weeks after the US Supreme Court denied Troy’s final appeal, paving the way for the state of Georgia to set a new execution date. According to Martina, her mother died of a broken heart–she couldn’t bear another execution date. Troy was executed on September 21, despite an international outcry over executing a man amid such overwhelming doubt. Martina succumbed to her decade-long battle with cancer on December 1, exactly two months after her brother Troy’s funeral.

The Davis family has had to bear more tragedy and sorrow than any family should ever have to. Together, we can ensure that the financial aspect of these losses will not be a burden to them.

I sent a notice out a few days ago about a fund for Martina, to cover her funeral and medical bills. I wanted to let you know that contributions can also be made via paypal, using the email address: aug1970@bellsouth.net

Checks can also be made out to: “The Martina Davis-Correia Fund”
and sent to:
Capitol City Bank and Trust
339 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
Savannah, GA 31419

Martina’s funeral is December 10, which is International Human Rights Day. A more fitting date could not be found to celebrate the life of a woman who was one of the staunchest defenders of human rights that I have ever had the privilege to call my friend.

Thank you in advance for any support you can offer, in any amount.

In solidarity,
Jen Marlowe

Troy Davis – funeral expenses.

The folks who were most closely involved with advocating for Troy Davis are now raising money so that his family can give him the funeral they feel he deserves. I still find it almost unfathomable that the State of Georgia actually killed him. It just seems almost literally unimaginable to me. But of course his family will now face the reality and nature of his death every day from here and unto eternity. If you would like to contribute to Mr. Davis’s funeral, please write to my friend Jen Marlowe at donkeysaddle@gmail.com, tell her who sent you, and she’ll set you up.

If you’d like to take action to continue the fight against the death penalty in Mr. Davis’s name but don’t know where to start, you can click here for my thoughts and ideas, and here for those of Peter Rothberg, Associate Publisher of The Nation. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: The only way for Troy Davis to continue his struggle for justice is for us to carry his spirit in our hands. It’s on us now. We are Troy Davis.

Dear readers veteran and new.

For a variety of reasons, the readership of this blog has jumped exponentially in recent weeks, with yesterday seeing a literal 20 fold increase. Some have come from The Hairpin, some from The Atlantic, some from Skepchick, some from BlogHer, some via Twitter, and some from other corners and other relationships, not least the Facebook walls of friends and loved ones.

I want to welcome you all, but confess that as I write this morning, I do so through a haze. My eyes and head ache from tears shed, my throat is tightening as I type, and my fingers feel suddenly, inexplicably, heavy. I spent all of last night glued to Democracy Now’s live stream from the vigil outside the death row prison in Jackson, Georgia, toggling between it and Twitter, and at some points, doing both on my husband’s laptop while also watching Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. A very large piece of me simply could not believe that Troy Davis would be killed in spite of the enormous doubts about his conviction, and even now, having been immersed in it for hours last night, I feel a bit as if I must have dreamed it. How can such a thing be real?

I have never in my life been so involved in the life and death of a person I didn’t know, and for me, that involvement only goes back about four weeks. I have certainly never spent much time thinking about the death penalty before, other than being notionally opposed, signing occasional petitions, and being a Democrat in large part for reasons that also led me to oppose to the death penalty. I never so much as considered writing about state executions before my first post about Mr. Davis, on August 29th.

I wake up this morning to a different world — a world in which Troy Davis is dead, and I have seen up close both the horror of state intransigence in the face of human blood and bone, and the awesome power of hundreds of thousands of people coming together in support of a man they had never met.

Typically, I write about a wide range of things. This has included Winnie the Pooh, and signs that you might be middle-aged, and loud music, and women’s rights, and Islam (particularly in America), and a lot of Israel/Palestine. Sometimes I’m pretty funny, though I’m probably more often earnest. I write about stuff that is tiny, and stuff that is huge, and I try to find the human moment in the spine of all of it.

I can only imagine that I will get back to that kind of range in the coming days and weeks — that I will no longer be posting daily, and sometimes several times a day, about a man scheduled to die. But today I’m not ready.

I will spend today sorting out what my relationship needs to be with the anti-death penalty movement. I’m very clear on the fact that no one person can be equally active on all the issues to which they feel an attachment, and I have spent the better part of 25 years advocating for peace and reconciliation between Israel and Palestine. There are only so many hours in the day, and I have children to read to and a husband to laugh with, not to mention the other joys and drudgeries of a blessed life.

But I cannot simply walk away from last night. Mr. Davis’s final statement to supporters, the day before his execution, read:

The struggle for justice doesn’t end with me. This struggle is for all the Troy Davises who came before me and all the ones who will come after me. I’m in good spirits and I’m prayerful and at peace. But I will not stop fighting until I’ve taken my last breath.

The only way his spirit can move forward now is if we carry it for him. We are now Troy Davis.

To those who may be feeling lost and horrified, ashamed and grief-stricken, I want to say that I share all of those emotions. I am deeply, deeply ashamed of the country — my country — that allowed this travesty of justice to go forward. I am horrified at the vision of an innocent man strapped to a gurney and injected with poison, grief-stricken over the loss, and at a loss as to what to do with all the emotions.

But I am also proud — so, so proud — of all of the Americans who came together to fight for the life of this complete stranger. Most of us don’t know each other, most of us wouldn’t recognize each other on the street. And yet we reached out and sent letters and signed petitions and asked friends and family to do the same and we held hands across miles and wires and jointly created something new, something in which I know Mr. Davis himself had faith. This, too, is American: Not shrugging our shoulders, not giving in, not allowing injustice to go unremarked, but moving out and moving forward on the basis of the Idea and the ideals on which this country was founded. I am grateful to our international brothers and sisters (of whom there are many), but I am proud to share a country with those Americans who fought until the very last minute last night.

If you want to take that energy and that love and start to move forward in Mr. Davis’s name, here’s something you can do right now: Educate yourself about the death penalty and seek ways that you can become active in your area. That’s what I’m going to do. You can start by going to Amnesty International, or Campaign to End the Death Penalty (about which I know very little, having focused on Amnesty), or the ACLU, or the Southern Center for Human Rights (the organization behind the astonishing sign-on letter of former corrections officials calling for clemency for Troy Davis), or the NAACP, or Democracy Now.

If you have some money to spare, please make a donation to any of those organizations, all of which are fighting so hard on what is clearly a rocky battlefield. I gave some money to Amnesty this week, and yesterday threw some more to Democracy Now, out of sheer admiration for the astonishing job they did in producing a two-hour live event that became a six-hour-long broadcast — reporter Amy Goodman is my new hero, and I really don’t have words to describe my regard for the remarkable work she and her whole crew did last night (and please note that Democracy Now also takes donations of equipment).

Finally: It was my birthday yesterday. I will now forever share that day with Troy Davis. It’s my hope that I will find a way to honor the coincidence, and use my remaining years to aid in achieving Mr. Davis’s goal of ending the death penalty forever.

Live feed from Troy Davis vigil outside death row prison in Jackson, Georgia.

The Supreme Court granted Troy Davis a “temporary delay,” which is a thing that could theoretically last minutes or hours up to seven days — it’s not a stay of execution, it’s buying some time to make a decision. I’m watching a live feed from the vigil outside the death row prison, broadcast by Democracy Now. To watch the feed, click here.

Mostly I’m on Twitter: @emilylhauser Even if you’re not “on Twitter,” you can look at my feed or the feeds of other people tweeting under the hashtag #TroyDavis

Troy Davis’s statement to supporters.

Posted on Amnesty International’s Facebook page yesterday:

The struggle for justice doesn’t end with me. This struggle is for all the Troy Davises who came before me and all the ones who will come after me. I’m in good spirits and I’m prayerful and at peace. But I will not stop fighting until I’ve taken my last breath.