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Henry Alexander DAVIS





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: March 18, 1987
Date of birth: April 25, 1965
Victim profile: Joyce Ezell, 73
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Polk County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on January 12, 1990. Resentenced to death on November 17, 1992

Supreme Court of Florida


opinion 75467

opinion 80972


opinion SC02-803


DC#  358319
DOB:  04/25/65

Tenth Judicial Circuit, Polk County Case # 87-1347
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable J. Tim Strickland
Attorney, Trial: Dan Brawley – Private
Attorney, Direct Appeal: Robert F. Moeller – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Collateral Appeals:  Marie Parmer – CCRC-M

Date of Offense: 03/18/87

Date of Sentence: 01/12/90

Date of Resentence: 11/17/92

Circumstances of Offense:

On the evening of 03/18/87, the body of Joyce Ezell, 73,  was discovered in the foyer of her home.  Ms. Ezell had suffered twenty-one stab wounds. 

There were no signs of forced entry into the home and several items were missing, including silver serving pieces, Ezell’s purse and wallet, a pearl-handled pistol, rare coins, jewelry, and Ezell’s car.

A neighbor saw a black man, later identified as Henry Davis, approach Ezell’s house around 7:15 a.m. on 03/18/87.  Davis had done yard work at her house with his stepfather.  The day after the murder, Ezell’s car was found in a nearby sinkhole.  Fingerprints taken from the car and inside the house belonged to Davis. 

An acquaintance of Davis’, John Johnson, testified that he took Davis to a pawn shop the morning after the murder so that Davis could pawn a ring and an old pistol.  The ring and pistol were later identified as belonging to Ezell.

Additional Information:

On 05/17/88, Davis was found incompetent to stand trial because he had performed poorly on certain tests and had no recollection of events on the day of the murder.  Davis was sent to Florida State Hospital, where he was treated and evaluated for nine months.  Upon his release from the hospital, Davis was evaluated again and was found to be competent to stand trial.

Prior Incarceration History in the State of Florida:

At the time of the murder, Davis had an extensive criminal record. 

Trial Summary:

04/09/87          Indicted as follows:

Count I            First-Degree Murder

Count II           Armed Robbery

Count III          Burglary

01/09/90          Jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts of the indictment

01/11/90          Jury recommended a death sentence by a vote of 12-0

01/12/90          Sentenced as follows:

Count I            First-Degree Murder – Death

Count II           Armed Robbery – Life imprisonment

Count III          Burglary – Life imprisonment

11/17/92          Resentenced to death

Case Information:

Davis filed a Direct Appeal with the Florida Supreme Court on 02/01/90, citing the following trial court errors: State alleged that Davis had been involved in other criminal activity; improper questioning by the State during the penalty phase; denial of a motion for mistrial; and unsupported aggravating circumstances (heinous, atrocious, or cruel murder and murder committed for the purpose of avoiding arrest). 

On 07/16/92, the FSC vacated Davis’ death sentence due to insufficient evidence of an aggravating circumstance (murder committed for the purpose of avoiding arrest) and improper doubling of two aggravating circumstances (murder committed during a burglary and murder for pecuniary gain). The FSC remanded the case to the trial court to reweigh the evidence without the aggravating circumstances and resentence Davis.

After resentencing, Davis filed a Direct Appeal with the Florida Supreme Court on 12/28/92, citing the following circuit court errors: inconsistent use of the heinous, atrocious, or cruel murder aggravating circumstance; failure to follow the FSC’s resentencing mandate by not allowing for a new penalty phase jury; improper penalty phase jury instructions; and disproportionate sentencing compared to other cases.  The FSC affirmed the death sentence on 11/10/94.

Davis filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court on 05/02/95 that was denied on 10/02/95.

Davis filed a 3.850 Motion with the circuit court on 03/17/97 and amended the Motion on 03/23/00.  The  Motion was denied in part and granted in part on 03/12/02, and a new sentencing hearing was ordered by the circuit court.

The State filed a 3.850 Motion Appeal and Davis filed a cross-appeal with the Florida Supreme Court on 04/08/02.  The issues raised by Davis focus on allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel. 

On 02/19/04, the FSC determined that Davis received ineffective assistance of counsel through trial counsel’s blatant expressions of racial prejudice, which affected the outcome of the trial.  The FSC ordered a retrial for Davis.

Davis filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus with the Florida Supreme Court on 02/04/03, citing allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel.  On 02/19/04, the FSC determined that the issues raised in the Petition were moot, due to the retrial order in the 3.850 Motion Appeal.


Henry Alexander Davis



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