Troy: “We got good news from Martina’s oncologist. He said she’s clean and cancer free.”

Kavita: “Good, she better live to a hundred because she’s got many more butts to kick.”

Troy: “Everything’s going to be alright, eventually. I only got a chance to talk to Martina yesterday, when she finally got home from the hospital.”

Kavita: “What was she doing in the hospital?”

Troy: “Nobody told you? She had a surgery where they put a tube in her thigh to shoot medicine inside her kidney and liver. Two days after, she kept throwing up. She went back to the hospital and her blood pressure had skyrocketed. They were pumping her with morphine and one of the pellets got inside of her stomach. She got back yesterday and she’s doing okay, but I’m still trying to convince her that she needs to rest. Kiersten kept crying and beating on Martina’s door, yelling, ‘Tina, Tina, let me in!’ while Martina was recovering from chemo.”

Kavita: “I think she’s stressed out after the oral arguments. ‘How many times are they going to try to kill Troy?’ she asked me. She tried to talk to the MacPhails in the courthouse and they wouldn’t even look at her.”

Troy: “All of us have to die someday. You have to pray. There’s a God, and He listens. When people die, there is a reason. And when people live, God takes care of them. But I worry about Martina. De’Jaun was complaining that she don’t get no rest. If somebody calls, she immediately gets ready to go. She often goes to bed late, wakes up at three or four in the morning, and jumps right back on the internet. That attitude is why she has received twelve different awards for her breast cancer awareness, her outstanding commitment to the judicial system, as a mom, and for fighting against the death penalty. She should be on Oprah because she’s a woman who’s changing the world.

“It’s an up and down rollercoaster for my family. I can deal with it, but I can see it in my mother’s eyes, in Martina’s eyes, that it’s really wearing them down emotionally. They’re getting scared. Even De’Jaun is getting scared. He can’t concentrate in school. Death row is eating away at my family’s peace of mind.”

Kavita: “Martina is very determined. The love you all have for each other will keep you strong no matter what happens.”

Troy: “We’ve both been having a rough time. I’m waiting on medical call. I have a herniated disc, so they call me out every so often to see if the medication is working. I tore my Achilles tendon playing basketball the other day. The pain is so excruciating that I can’t walk and am now wheelchair-bound. I needed surgery, so they took me to a medical center in Augusta. That was the worst car trip of my life. They shackled my arm, hands, and legs so I couldn’t move. I had to remain perfectly still, hunched over in the car, while my foot throbbed in pain. The doctor said if my foot didn’t heal soon I may have to come back for a follow-up surgery, which means another car ride.”

Gautam: “They forced you to hunch over for hours when you had a herniated disc and back pain?”

Troy: “The whole system just frustrates me. Spencer Lawton is the perfect representative of the justice system. He’s known as a hard-nosed, no-nonsense kind of guy. He doesn’t care what you can prove. Once he gets you he wants to keep you locked up. He don’t like none of his cases to get overturned. If you can prove your innocence, he’s not gonna exonerate you. He’s gonna try to find some way to keep you locked up. It seems like everyone is scared to do the right thing. Politicians vow to be tough on crime, and they’re afraid of what might happen to their political careers if they free an innocent man. The prison system is connected to the corrupted political and legal system.”

Gautam: “How would you make it better?”

Troy: “This is how I think prison should be run: Rehabilitation should be brought back, and all prisoners serving more than two years must learn two new trades before being allowed to leave. While they’re in there, the prison works as a temp agency where they network with companies and give them tax breaks to hire inmates. Create a setup where the company pays $14 an hour per worker. Half goes to the inmate and the other half goes to the prison to pay for its expenses. Forcing inmates to learn trades will help them get and create jobs when they’re released instead of going back and forth between prison and the outside. It will give them a work ethic and a sense of responsibility.”

Gautam: “How has the prison handled the whole Brian Nichols case?”

Troy: “It’s kind of funny, isn’t it? He was on trial for rape, openly murdered a judge and a police officer, and went on a rampage. He ended up with life in prison. I had never committed a crime and my case is riddled with doubt, but I get the death penalty. There are plenty of guys in this same prison who have two or three life sentences, and the prosecutor never even sought the death penalty. The real difference is that his crime was committed in Atlanta in 2005 and mine was committed in Savannah in 1989.”

Kavita: “What did they do when the sentence was announced?”

Troy: “They brought him here within an hour of the announcement. He’s in the G2 unit. That’s upstairs, behind a door, with four cells. He’s in there by himself. If we speak to him or try to pass him something, we’ll get written up. If the guards speak to him, they get fired. The unit manager on up to the warden are responsible for feeding him and bathing him.”

Kavita: “Is that normal? Do they isolate new inmates until they get adjusted?”

Troy: “There are three dormitories: G2, G3, and G4. The top four cells are blocked off by an extra door. Two of them are segregation where they put people who just can’t live with other death row inmates because they’re afraid, or they’ll put you there for three weeks when you first arrive here. They cleared one space in G2 just for Brian Nichols to be by himself. Most of us haven’t actually seen him because every time they bring him out they lock down all of death row. Even when he’s eating, they put the place on lockdown. They’re burning cornbread on this guy, as they call it, just trying to throw bad luck on this guy. I’m glad he didn’t get the death penalty.

“It’s been months and he’s still back there on G2. Since the federal government isn’t going to try him, we thought he’d be in general population by now. The DA wanted the federal Attorney General to take action so they could apply the federal death penalty, but the AG didn’t want any part of it. They keep Nichols in solitary confinement. They don’t let him come out of his cell to go to the yard, go to the shower, or talk to his attorney. No inmate is allowed to talk to him. Only the lieutenant on up to the warden can talk to him, and they only come to take him to the shower or bring him food. I’ve managed to see him a few times over the months. He gained a lot of weight and he’s always looking at the ground. They might have put him on medication. They’re not giving him any leeway, because while he was awaiting trial he got women to do all sorts of stuff for him and help him escape. In his own twisted way, the man’s a genius.”

Gautam: “Many people were upset when he didn’t get the death penalty.”

Troy: “When he didn’t get the death penalty, the prosecutor wanted to rewrite the law that requires a unanimous jury decision for the death penalty. They want it both ways. You’re supposed to respect the decision of the jurors you pick. But since you’re not always getting death sentences, you want to change the law? What about the integrity of the system? You agreed and the judge agreed that they were qualified to make the decision and now you want to disqualify their opinion. The DA needs to accept the fact that he blew three million in taxpayer money because the man got the same sentence he tried to plead out to last year. It’s cheaper to lock a man away for the rest of his life than it is to give him the death penalty.”

Previous: Part III, Section VII

Next: Part III, Section XIV

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