Advertisement
  1. News

Forced to eat broccoli as a boy? Death row inmate brainstorms his arguments for a new sentence.

Adam Davis was convicted in the brutal stabbing death of his girlfriend's mother. He talks defense strategy in a recent jailhouse discussion with two women.
Published Feb. 7

TAMPA — One day last summer, Adam Davis, a middle-aged man with brawny, tattooed arms and bearded cheeks, slid into view on a Hillsborough County jailhouse video screen.

Now 40, Davis is hardened from two decades on death row.

But he returns to the days of his youth as he speaks via video with two female visitors, seeking help remembering his troubled childhood, his exposure to drugs, in hopes early bad experiences might reduce his sentence to life in prison.

"Anything I went through as a kid," he pleads.

Davis and his then-girlfriend, Valessa Robinson, once saturated the news in the Tampa Bay area. The teenage couple were convicted — along with a third teen, Jon Whispel — in the vicious 1998 stabbing death of Robinson's mother.

Robinson served 13 years in prison. Whispel, who testified against the other two, gets released later this year. Davis received the death penalty. But his sentence was overturned recently because the jury was split 7-5. The law now requires a unanimous verdict for death.

The Hillsborough State Attorney's Office recently made public a recording of the video discussion Davis had as he sat in a high-security bay at the Hillsborough County jail, where he was housed last July while awaiting a court hearing.

The recording is among materials prosecutors will use as they seek a new death sentence.

The two women, one older and one younger, are not identified but appear to be close relatives of Davis. In 35 minutes of chat with them, he delves into a misspent youth in search of mitigating factors.

"I want to bring up everything that happened in the past," he says. "It's gonna bring up dirt. And I wanted to warn you." "What do you mean?" the older woman asks.

"Well, like, for instance, when I had to stand in the corner for hours," Davis says. "Or when I sat in the room on restriction and had to sit on the bed."

He mentions a time when he fell asleep and the older woman grabbed him by the hair and spanked him for it.

"I did?" she says.

"Yeah," Davis answers with a laugh.

"I don't remember that at all," she says.

He gives another example of what he says was a traumatic childhood experience.

"You remember when you made me some Velveeta macaroni and cheese and it had broccoli in it? And I hate broccoli. You got mad because I wouldn't eat it. So you made me eat it."

"I don't recall that because I don't eat broccoli," the older woman says. "And I hate broccoli."

"It happened when we lived in a trailer in Pasco County," he says. "I remember it clearly."

As a kid, Davis says, he never understood punishments or why things were wrong.

"We didn't talk a lot about feelings growing up," he says.

But the older woman asserts that they did. She says she tried to teach him by making him listen to songs like Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Davis says he only remembers fragments of his childhood because drugs damaged his memory. He says he "self-medicated" as a teen with methamphetamines. He tells of doing drugs with family members, and living on the streets, and getting in trouble.

"I didn't think about consequences," he says. "Now I think about everything. If I do this, what's going to happen."

He tells the two women to gather anything that might help him. He mentions Boy Scout merit badges he earned and a kindergarten art project.

"Things like that are gonna be helpful," he says.

Toward the end of the visit, Davis reveals that he's married.

Public records show Adam William Davis and Claire Louise Morgan wed in Raiford on Sept. 3, 2010.

He worries that resurfacing his case might bring unwanted attention to his wife.

"It's going to be rough," he says. "But it's necessary."

No date has been set for Davis' re-sentencing.

"I'm in no rush," he says. "I've already had it overturned. So I can sit on death row for five years and I wouldn't care because I don't have a death sentence now.

"And I'm in no hurry to get into a population where I've got to start fighting. ... And I have no choice. I'm a death row inmate and guys are gonna think they have to try their mettle against me."

Once he's off death row, he says, he hopes to find a lawyer to appeal for a new trial. He wants his case to be presented in law schools, for professors to ask their students how they'd win.

"We'll do whatever we can to help you, Adam," the older woman says. "We love you very much."

Contact Dan Sullivan at dsullivan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Defendant Reynaldo Figueroa Sanabria leaves the courtroom Wednesday during his murder trial. Sanabria is accused of the stabbing deaths of John Travlos and his girlfriend Germana Morin aboard their houseboat. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Reynaldo Figueroa-Sanabria faces the death penalty in the slayings of John Travlos and Germana “Geri” Morin.
  2. [SKIP O'ROURKE   | Times]
    It’s unclear if there will be any proposed changes to this method for measuring teachers’ impact on their students’ performance, despite complaints.
  3. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. TMCCARTY  |  times staff
    The teen sent texts naming two classmates and a faculty member as targets, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. He did not have access to guns, however.
  4. Zephyrhillls police Officer Timothy Alan Murr II, 33, was arrested Monday on a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence. The police department suspended him with pay pending the completion of the criminal investigation. Pasco County Sheriff's Office
    The officer is accused of grabbing a woman’s wrists. The Zephyrhills Police Department suspended him with pay.
  5. This satellite image shows Hurricane Michael on Oct. 9, 2018, as it enters the Gulf of Mexico. It made landfall near Mexico Beach in the Panhandle as a Category 5 storm. Florida State University professor Wenyuan Fan said the storm probably created "stormquakes" offshore in the gulf, too. [Photo courtesy of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration]] NOAA
    Analysis of a decade of records shows hurricanes causing seismic activity on continental shelf
  6. Ken Jones, CEO of Third Lake Capital, has sold WingHouse for $18 million to a Jacksonville restaurant company. [Times 2016]
    Tampa’s Third Like Capital now major shareholder in restaurant’s new owners.
  7. Mama is available for adoption. Hernando County Animal Services
    Hernando County shelter pet offerings
  8. The Don CeSar Hotel is caught up in a lawsuit over liquid nitrogen being served and causing injuries at its restaurant. [Times (2011)]
    They say the other side has made inflammatory and misleading statements to the media.
  9. This Mobil Coast gas station at 16055 State Road 52 in Land O Lakes is one of 10 cited in a Florida Department of Environmental Protection lawsuit where inspectors said they found lapses in regularly required tests, maintenance, documentation or other oversight by Brandon-based Automated Petroleum and Energy or its related companies. On Wednesday, the company said the station had already been put back in compliance with state regulations. (Photo via Google street view) Google street view
    The Florida Department of Environmental Protection contends Automated Petroleum and Energy Company failed to do required maintenance or testing at 10 gas stations in the Tampa Bay area and beyond.
  10. FILE - In this Wednesday, July 10, 2019 file photo, 6-year-old elementary school students go through the lunch line in the school's cafeteria in Paducah, Ky. Nearly a million students could lose their automatic eligibility for free school lunches under a Trump administration proposal that's expected to reduce the number of people who get food stamps. In October 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has released an analysis finding as many as 982,000 children could be affected by the change. ELLEN O'NAN  |  AP
    The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released details of an analysis that found that as many as 982,000 children could be affected by the change.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement