Crime

Clifford Davis found guilty of 1st-degree murder

BRADENTON - Clifford Davis this afternoon was found guilty of murder in the December 2005 slayings of his mother and grandfather. The jury will now consider whether he should be executed for his crimes.

The jury deliberated for about four hours, before finding Davis, 23, guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, abuse of a dead body - investigators said he sexually assaulted his mother's dead body - and grand theft.

Davis at first showed little reaction, before cracking a traceable smirk moments after a clerk read the verdict.

The jury will return to the Manatee County courthouse on Friday to hear testimony in the punishment phase of the case. Prosecutors have said they will ask for the death penalty.

No one in court - not even Davis, who admitted to the judge outside the presence of the jury that had killed his mother, Stephanie Davis, and grandfather, Joel Hill - questioned that Davis was responsible for the slayings. At issue, was his level of culpability.

Defense attorneys argued that he was insane. A jury verdict that Davis was not guilty by reason of insanity would have spared him the possibility of being executed.

Prosecutors were unmoved by testimony about scans taken of Davis's brain and from family members who described how he was abused as a child.

This morning during closing arguments, Assistant State Attorney Art Brown told jurors that Davis' motive for the killings was not insanity but a "motive as old as time."

"Hatred and greed," Brown said.

Brown detailed an "abhorrent and bizarre" crime in which Davis killed his mother in their Wares Creek apartment, sexually assaulted her dead body, stole her credit cards, then went shopping with them at a mall.

Davis then later lured his grandfather to the apartment, and killed him, too, Brown said. Both victims were strangled, a medical examiner testified in the trial.

Brown also spoke of a "chilling" recording Davis made prior to the killings in which he spoke of killing his mother and grandfather, and said he was not sorry for what he would do - evidence that Davis had planned the acts and knew what he did was wrong, Brown told jurors.

“He knows exactly what he has done and the magnitude of it," he said.

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.

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