The sister of Troy Davis, the Georgia man executed Wednesday night, said her brother was calm and treated his last moments with his family like any doting uncle would: he watched his 3-year-old niece's latest ballet moves.
"Our last moments were joyous. My brother was giving us charge as to what he wanted us to do, telling us to hold our heads up, telling my nephew to continue to be all that he could be... My niece was showing him her ballet shoes and telling him to stand on his tippy toes like a ballerina," said Kimberly Davis from her Savannah, Ga., home.
Davis' family last saw him between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Wednesday when there was still hope that his execution might be stopped. The execution was postponed briefly by the Supreme Court for a legal review, but at 11:08 p.m., Davis, 42, was dead from lethal injection.
"When we left my brother yesterday, my brother told us to hold our heads up and be strong because if the state of Georgia did succeed in executing him, they would only take his physical body and not his soul," she said, crying at times. "My brother said he only wanted to be a free man and right now, he is free."
Davis was convicted of the 1989 murder of police officer Mark MacPhail and sentenced to the death penalty. Members of the MacPhail family are convinced Davis was guilty, but many other observers are not.
Before being executed, Davis said, "I'd like to address the MacPhail family. Let you know, despite the situation you are in, I'm not the one who personally killed your son, your father, your brother. I am innocent."
Witnesses said Davis' eyes fluttered as he received his first injection and lost consciousness, and that the entire process of lethal injection lasted about 15 minutes.
Following Davis' death, the Twitter and Facebook world buzzed with the lyrics of Strange Fruit, the poem sung by Billie Holiday about the lynching of black men in the South. Some felt Davis' death equated to a modern day lynching.
"That's what it is--a lynch mob in the state of Georgia, Chatham County," said Kimberly Davis.
"We're going to carry on and continue to fight to bring down the death penalty," she said. "This fight didn't start with him and it's not going to end with him."
Davis had his execution stayed four times over the course of his 22 years on death row, but multiple legal appeals during that time failed to convince a court of his innocence.
Public support grew for Davis based on the recanted testimony of seven witnesses from his trial and the possible confession of another suspect, which his defense team claimed cast too much doubt on Davis' guilt to follow through with an execution.
On Wednesday, busloads of Davis supporters gathered outside the White House and outside the Georgia State Prison in Jackson. Davis' 17-year-old nephew, Anthony, helped lead a group of men from Morehouse College to the prison, Kimberly Davis said.
"One college student drove in from San Francisco by herself," Ms. Davis said. "So many people said that we're part of your family, we've been fighting the cause for your brother and we'll do whatever to continue the cause."
The protesters, wearing t-shirts that said "I am Troy Davis" and holding signs that said "Too Much Doubt," cheered when the execution was briefly halted and cried when it was carried out.
The family of MacPhail feels that justice has been served.