With assurance that the Supreme Court wouldn’t intervene, Georgia prepared to execute Troy Davis on October 27, 2008. Through Martina, we told Troy we wanted to talk to him on the phone and record the conversations. Troy gave his blessing but warned us the Department of Corrections monitored his calls. They’d already blocked all media access, and if the calls sounded like an interview they could revoke his phone privileges and block our number. We had to mask our deeper questions with pleasantries and the mundane.
An automated recording preceded his call. “This is Global Tel Link. This call is subject to monitoring and or recording. I have a collect call from . . .” There was a pause, and then Troy’s voice came through. “Troy Davis . . .” Another pause, and then the automated voice resumed. “. . . an inmate at Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison. To hear the rates for this call, press or dial nine. To accept, press or dial five and hold. To deny, press or dial zero.” We pressed five. “Your call is being connected. Thank you for using Global Tel Link.”
“Hello, hello, hello.” His voice crackled through the phone. I hit the red record button on the digital tape recorder and put him on speaker.
“I’m sure you heard about the Supreme Court decision,” I said. “How have you been taking it?”
“It’s like . . . how can I say this? I just knew something wasn’t right. When I called Martina, I heard it in her voice. It didn’t shock me. I’ve always prepared for the worst and prayed for the best. I decided to pick up where we left off. I called my lawyers and asked what other avenues we have. I always knew this fight wouldn’t be easy.”
We were straying too close. My mother quickly changed the subject.
“So, I hear your niece Kiersten has become very cute.”
“Cute? More like evil! When she visited me, she kept whining and complaining about food, so I broke her off a piece of bread with mustard on it, and she spit it out! Every time I picked her up she was just spitting and spitting, and I was like, ‘Girl, you better stop!’”
“How old is she now?”
“Ten months. She looks almost identical to her mother at that age.”
“Kimberly?” my mother asked.
“No, not Kim. Ebony. Ebony was just a little girl when I got locked up. Not even ten years old.”
“Thanksgiving and Christmas aren’t too far away,” I said. “Will you be able to see them then? Will we be able to visit you?”
“It’s probably best you come earlier in November. We can put twelve people on a list, and those people can visit every weekend and on holidays. Before, it could be any twelve people. Now, I can only put two friends and ten family members on the list. I have less than ten family members, but they won’t let me use the extra slots for more friends. During the last five years, they got real strict. I even had to jump through hoops just to add Kiersten. Why do I need to add a baby? Why do I even need to add anybody who isn’t old enough to have an ID? De’Jaun, Gautam, and anybody else under fifteen didn’t need an ID before. That don’t make no sense.”
“What about people not on the list?”
“They can only visit once every ninety days. The only reason y’all can visit in November is because the September 29th visit was a special visit, so it doesn’t count.”
“Will any of your friends see you for the holidays?” my mother asked.
“The two friends on my list are Gemma and Marissa. Gemma’s a professor and is pretty busy so she won’t be able to come. Marissa’s husband is starting to get frustrated with her supporting me. She wanted to stop by on Thanksgiving and I said, ‘No, I don’t want you to have problems with your husband. I don’t want him yelling at you for leaving the family to go be with a death row inmate. Stay at home.’ She thought it would be nice if I had somebody to spend a few hours with. But I told her I’ll be alright.”
“Why are they so strict? Have there been jailbreaks or more security breaches in the other prisons?”
“It’s not jailbreaks. I’ve only heard about three or four people breaking out, and they never even made it off prison grounds. I think it’s just an effort to try to keep us so frustrated that we don’t ever want to come back.”