Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Passions Are Split at Killer's Hearing E. St. Louis Prisoner Seeks to Cancel Execution

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Passions Are Split at Killer's Hearing E. St. Louis Prisoner Seeks to Cancel Execution

Article excerpt

Two vastly different portraits of condemned killer Girvies Davis of East St. Louis were painted Thursday for the state panel that will recommend whether the governor should cancel Davis' execution next week.

Twelve witnesses seeking Davis' clemency told the Illinois Prisoner Review Board that Davis was an innocent man wrongly convicted, a man who has become a gentle, religious counselor and minister.

Twelve witness on the other side called Davis a cold-blooded murderer, predator, con man, pathological liar, and half of a team called the ".22-caliber killers" linked to nine murders and six other shootings in St. Clair and Madison counties in 1978 and 1979.

Davis, 37, is scheduled to die Wednesday by lethal injection at Stateville Correctional Center at Joliet for the murder of Charles Biebel, 89, who was fatally shot in his wheelchair in Belleville in 1978.

Davis also has been convicted of three other murders in what State's Attorney William R. Haine of Madison County called "a trail of tears" behind Davis and Richard Holman. Holman is serving life sentences in some of the murders; he was too young then - just 16 - to get the death penalty.

Davis and his supporters have asked Edgar to commute the sentence to life without parole. After hearing from 24 witnesses in a four-hour hearing Thursday, the review board will give Edgar a confidential recommendation.

One of Davis' attorneys, Barry Levenstam of Chicago, said Davis, who is black, was unjustly convicted for Biebel's murder. Among the grievances cited by Levenstam and other witnesses were:

Blacks were kept off the jury by the prosecutor.

The jury never was told that Davis was illiterate and couldn't have written a confession, or that he was borderline retarded and suffered brain damage.

Holman was never prosecuted for Biebel's murder, even though Davis insisted Holman shot Biebel. …

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