BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY 17 May 1995 – Girvies Davis
Well Illinois certainly didn’t when they sent Girvies Davies down to be lethally injected on this day in 1995. This callous act sparked a fierce backlash against the death penalty – even a respected police chief joined an influential group of notaries who lobbied to prevent Davies from being executed.
ScapegoatBrain-damaged Davies, who had the mental age of 10, is thought to have been fitted up with his crimes, even coerced into confessing to a whole spate of murders, after days of questioning. Davies is said to have handed over a note saying that he wishes to confess. Yet he professed right up until his death that he had written no such note. Instead, two policemen wore him down by driving him around endlessly, before they produced some papers and asked him to sign them or make a run for it.
‘I signed everything they had. I was fearful for my life’ said the suspect. And it turned out that in doing so Davies literally signed away his life, despite the fact that there was no evidence of any kind to connect him to the murderous robberies that had been committed. Indeed Davies could barely read at that point, so he was unaware of what he was signing his name to. Couple this with an all-white jury and the beleaguered, 20-year-old, black man had no hope.
Davies did, however, admit to being involved in two robberies where two people were killed, but he sincerely maintained throughout his life that he was never a murderer up to the bitter end. He did however kick the bucket having reinvented himself – poignantly, he learned to read and died a minister, aged 37.