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Taxpayers may pay for murder suspect Davis’ glasses

BRADENTON — Taxpayers may end up paying the bill for eye glasses for Clifford Davis, in jail and facing the death penalty on charges of killing his grandfather and his mother.

Assistant Public Defender Carolyn Schlemmer asked a judge today to allow Davis to leave jail and go to an eye doctor to be fitted for glasses. She said the Manatee County jail does not have the equipment needed to give inmates eye exams.

Schlemmer told Judge Doug Henderson her client’s vision has rapidly deteriorated in the four years he has been in prison and she fears he will not be able to see exhibits and jurors when his case goes to trial. Schlemmer said since Davis, 22, has been ruled indigent, the county should pick up the bill for his transport to the appointment, security, any exams and the eye glasses.

Manatee County Sheriff’s Office officials objected to the request saying taxpayers should not have to foot the bill and it is not routine procedure for inmates to be allowed to be transported for “elective” medical procedures.

“There are a lot of inmates who don’t see very well who would like a change of scenery for day,” said sheriff’s attorney Michelle Hall.

Schlemmer argued that the severity of the charges against Davis should mandate that he is allowed to see well during his trial.

“If we have enough money to try to execute him, then there should be enough money to get him some glasses,” she said.

Henderson ruled that Davis’ father, who lives in Texas, should first be asked if he would be willing to pay the bills. Henderson asked jail officials to work up an estimate of how much everything will cost, which will then be presented to Davis’ father. If the father refuses, the county would most likely pay, Schlemmer said.

Davis is accused of killing his mother, Stephanie Ann Davis, 43, and grandfather, Joel C. Hill, 77, on Dec. 4, 2005, in their Wares Creek apartment. A grand jury indicted him on charges of two counts of first-degree murder, abuse of a dead body, robbery, robbery with a deadly weapon and grand theft.

His case is currently on hold as attorneys await a higher court’s ruling on an appeal by the state seeking to overturn the tossing of Davis’s confession to police. In January, Circuit Judge Janette Dunnigan threw out the confession, saying Bradenton police detectives continued to question Davis after he asked for an attorney.