BRADENTON — Clifford Davis is assured of life in prison, and may be executed, after a jury found him guilty Wednesday of killing his mother and grandfather more than four years ago.
The jury took just less than four hours to discount an insanity defense and convict Davis, 23, on charges of two counts of first-degree murder, abuse of a dead body and grand theft of a firearm.
Davis at first showed little reaction, before cracking a traceable smirk moments after a clerk read the verdict.
The jury’s work is not done, as Friday it will begin to consider whether to recommend the death penalty for Davis in the Dec. 4, 2005, murders of his mother, Stephanie Davis, and grandfather, Joel Hill.
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Hill’s widow and the mother of Stephanie Davis, Nancy Hill, is expected to testify for the prosecution in the punishment phase, which begins Friday. Davis’ father and sister, who attended the trial, also may testify for the defense.
After the verdict, Nancy Hill wept and was taken by prosecutors and victim’s advocates to the state attorney’s office to discuss her upcoming testimony in the punishment phase.
Davis’ father and sister embraced as they left the courthouse, visibly emotional. They declined comment until his sister turned around as they walked away.
“We love and support him no matter what,” she said.
Attorneys for both sides during closing arguments described Davis’ actions in killing his mother and grandfather as “bizarre,” as he strangled his mother and sexually assaulted her dead body in the Wares Creek apartment they shared.
Davis then stole her credit cards and went shopping at the mall. Hours later, he lured Hill to the apartment and strangled, stabbed and beat the 77-year-old man.
But the crux of the case presented to the jury over the past week-and-a-half was not whether Davis committed the murders, but whether his defense attorneys could prove he was insane when he committed them.
Within minutes of the start of the trial, Assistant Public Defender Carolyn Schlemmer told the jury her client had, in fact, killed his mother and grandfather. She then asked for the jury to find him not guilty by reason of insanity.
Schlemmer and Assistant State Attorney Art Brown then painted very different pictures as to why Davis killed his family members.
Assistant State Attorney Art Brown told jurors during a closing argument that Davis’ motive for the killings was not insanity, but a “motive as old as time.”
“Hatred and greed,” Brown said.
Davis hated his mother because he believed she had abandoned him as a child. And instead of spending time with him, Davis harbored anger that she worked two jobs and drank alcohol, according to Brown.
“He did this as revenge for whatever feelings he had of her failings as a parent, not because he was insane,” Brown said.
Brown also spoke of a “chilling” recording Davis made prior to the “abhorrent and bizarre” murders in which he spoke of killing his mother and grandfather.
Davis said on the recording he was not sorry for what he did, evidence that Davis had planned the acts, and was sane at the time of the attacks, Brown said.
“He knows exactly what he has done and the magnitude of it,” he told jurors.
Assistant Public Defender Carolyn Schlemmer argued that over the years Davis descended into insanity, suffered from hallucinations and lost reality in a series of video games and characters.
Schlemmer also told the jury that brain scans done on Davis showed him to have brain abnormalities, and several family members testified to his longtime erratic behavior.
Family members also described a childhood of abuse, isolation and depression during testimony at trial.
“You heard testimony that his father called him a mistake,” Schlemmer presented as an example of the mental abuse Davis suffered.