Some people were horrified by what happened to Allen Lee Davis last week.
Davis, 54, was put to death in Florida's electric chair. During his
execution, a spot of blood unexpectedly appeared on his shirt; by the time the
execution was finished, the blood spot had grown to approximately 8 inches
Prison officials later said that the blood came from a simple nosebleed, and
that the blood dripped onto Davis' shirt. But some witnesses said that the
blood seemed to come from Davis' chest area.
All of this was used by some as evidence that putting prisoners to
death--specifically by using the electric chair--is an appalling and cruel
thing to do. The lawyer for another Florida man on Death Row said, "The
degrading and mutilating manner in which (Davis) died was a clear violation of
the Eighth Amendment. Blood gushing from the face and chest of a dying inmate
is repugnant to the conscience of mankind." Civil liberties attorney
Howard Simon said that the method used to execute Davis was
But before we go too far down the path of mourning the way in which Allen
Lee Davis died, maybe, just for a few moments, it is worth reporting something
that has not been commented upon much: what Davis did to get to Death Row in
the first place.
On May 11, 1982, Davis--an ex-convict--entered the Jacksonville, Fla., home
of the John Weiler family. Weiler, an executive with the Westinghouse Corp.,
was on a business trip in Pittsburgh.
In the Weiler home, Allen Lee Davis attacked Nancy Weiler, 37, who at the
time was three months pregnant with the family's third child. Davis bludgeoned
Mrs. Weiler--who was the corresponding secretary of the PTA at her children's
school--so severely that she was barely recognizable when police found her
body. Davis brutalized Mrs. Weiler with such force that the trigger guard on
the gun with which he was beating her broke, as did the wooden grips and metal
frame of its handle.
Davis tied up the Weiler's 10-year-old daughter, Kristy--a 5th-grade
student who hoped to become a nuclear engineer someday--and shot her in the
face, killing her.
The Weilers' other child -- 5-year-old Kathy -- tried to run from Davis. He
shot her in the back, and then beat her, crushing her skull.
There was quite a bit of blood in the Weiler home after Davis had killed
the mother and her two children. Considerably more blood than inadvertently
appeared on Davis' shirt during the execution.
When prisoners are wrongly sent to Death Row, there is justifiable outrage
that the court system could condemn innocent people to death. This is as it
should be. But there was no question about Allen Lee Davis. He murdered Mrs.
Weiler and her two little girls. No one disputes that.
And for 16 full years the State of Florida housed him, took care of his
physical needs, fed him all the food he desired (he ballooned up to 344 pound
in prison; one of his attorneys based an appeal on the theory that Davis
should not be executed because his obesity might complicate the electrocution
and cause him pain, which the attorney said would be cruel and unusual
punishment. The attorney did not characterize the extent of the cruelty in the
deaths of the Weiler family.)
As his last meal before his execution, Davis received from the State of
Florida the dinner he had requested: a lobster tail, fried potatoes, a
half-pound of fried shrimp, six ounces of fried clam strips, half a loaf of
garlic bread and 32 ounces of A&W root beer. In 1982, Davis did not give
Mrs. Weiler and her two children a choice of a last meal before he killed
But now the focus is on the blood spot on Davis' chest, and whether that
indicates we are an immoral and vicious society for doing such a thing to him.
John Weiler--whose wife and daughters have been dead for 17
years--apparently doesn't think so. At one point as he waited for Davis to at
last receive the punishment the courts had ordered for him, Weiler said:
"It is cruel and unusual punishment of the victims, living and dead, to
know that this animal . . . still breathes."
And now Allen Lee Davis is dead. Evidently his death was a somewhat
unpleasant experience for him. There are a lot of things in this world for the
public to worry about. Davis' discomfort is not necessarily one of them.