Richard Allen Davis

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Richard Allen Davis
Richard Allen Davis (prison photograph) - 20070615.jpg
Richard Allen Davis in 2007
Born (1954-06-02) June 2, 1954 (age 61)
San Francisco, California
Criminal penalty Death
Conviction(s) Murder with special circumstances (robbery, burglary, kidnapping and lewd act upon a child)

Richard Allen "Rick" Davis (born June 2, 1954) is an American convicted murderer, whose criminal record fueled support for passage of California's "Three strikes law" for repeat offenders. He is currently on death row in Adjustment Center at San Quentin State Prison, California. He was convicted in 1996 of first-degree murder and four special circumstances (robbery, burglary, kidnapping, and a lewd act on a child) of 12-year-old Polly Klaas. Klaas was abducted October 1, 1993, from her Petaluma, California, home.

A San Jose, California, Superior Court jury returned a verdict of death on August 5, 1996. After the verdict was read, Davis stood and gestured obscenely at the courtroom with both hands. Later, at his formal sentencing, Davis read a statement claiming that Klaas had said to Davis, "Just don’t do me like my dad," just before Davis killed her, implying that Klaas' father was a child molester. Polly's father, Marc Klaas, reacted by shouting, "Oh, burn in hell Davis! Fuck you!" Klaas then left the courtroom to avoid causing further commotion. Judge Thomas C. Hastings proceeded with the formality of the death sentence, saying "Mr. Davis, this is always a traumatic and emotional decision for a judge. You made it very easy today by your conduct."[1]

Early life[edit]

Davis was born the third of five children in San Francisco. Both of his parents, Bob and Evelyn Davis, were alcoholics.[2] His defense attorneys during his trial said that his mother was a strict disciplinarian and punished Davis for smoking by burning his hand.[3][4] Davis claims to be half Native American;[5] his maternal grandmother was a Paiute.[6] He also claims to be of Shoshone and English descent.[5]

The couple divorced when Davis was 11. After the divorce the children lived with their father, Bob, a longshoreman. Davis' father was sometimes unable or unwilling to care for his children, so they shuttled among family members and babysitters.[7] Davis' father would remarry two times. Davis resented both of his stepmothers.[4]

Bob Davis was mentally unstable and sometimes suffered from hallucinations. He is reported to have taken a gun outside the home and shot at mirages.[8]

At an early age, Davis tortured and killed animals. According to Ruth Baron, the mother of one of Davis's childhood friends, "He would douse cats with gasoline and set them on fire. He made a point of letting people know he carried a knife, and he used to find stray dogs and cut them."[8]

By the time he entered his teens, Davis was deeply into a life of crime. He told a psychiatrist that stealing relieved whatever "tensions" were building up inside him.[9] He dropped out of high school in his sophomore year.[10]

At 17, Davis found himself in front of a judge, who told him that he could either go to the California Youth Authority or join the United States Army. He chose the latter. He received a discharge after 13 months' service.[11]

On October 12, 1973, Davis went to a party at the home of 18-year-old Marlene Voris. That night, Voris was found dead of a gunshot wound.[10] There were seven suicide notes at the scene, and the police concluded that she committed suicide.[10] Friends of Voris believe Davis murdered her.[10] In 1977 he told a psychiatrist that her death had deeply affected him and he had been hearing her voice in his head and also "At times another voice would appear, telling him that she wanted to be assaulted or robbed or raped".[11]

A few weeks after Voris' death, Davis was arrested for attempting to pawn property he had stolen. He confessed to a string of burglaries in La Honda and served six months in the county jail.[11] Five weeks after his release, on May 13, 1974, he was arrested for another burglary. He was sentenced to 6 months to 15 years in prison; however, he was released on parole after serving a year of his sentence.[11]

Criminal justice record[edit]


  • May 13, 1974: Arrested for burgling South High School. He was sent to the California Medical Facility, Vacaville, for a 90-day diagnostic study. A county probation officer recommended prison, but proceedings were suspended when Davis enrolled in a Veterans Administration alcohol treatment program. He quit on the second day.
  • September 16, 1974: Sentenced to one year in county jail for the school burglary. He was allowed to leave jail to attend a Native American drug and alcohol treatment program. He failed to return, leaving behind two angry fellow inmates who had given Davis money to buy drugs and bring the contraband back to jail.


  • October 1, 1993: Davis kidnapped Polly Klaas during a slumber party at her Petaluma home, committed a lewd act on her, then murdered her by strangulation.
  • December 3, 1993: Davis provides investigators with information that leads them to the body of Polly Klaas near U.S. Route 101 near Cloverdale.[12]
  • June 18, 1996: Convicted of kidnapping and murder of Polly Klaas. Upon conviction, raises his middle fingers to the court, and makes a statement implying Polly's father, Marc, was her molester.[1]
  • August 5, 1996: Superior Court jury in San Jose recommends death sentence.


  • July 2006: Davis was found unconscious in his cell following an opiate overdose.[13]
  • June 1, 2009: The California Supreme Court upholds Davis's death sentence. Davis had argued that his jailhouse confession was inadmissible because it was given without an attorney present. The court ruled that this was justified by the public safety exception to the Miranda (Miranda v. Arizona) rule. His lawyer Phillip Cherney told press that he intends to ask for a rehearing and will lodge a Habeas corpus appeal with the state, and then federal courts.[14] Davis has been diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder.[15]


  1. ^ a b Published: September 27, 1996 (1996-09-27). ""Before Being Sentenced to Die, Killer Disrupts a Courtroom." ''New York Times'' September 27, 1996. A-16". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-06-18. 
  2. ^ Curtius, Mary (2 July 1996). "Lawyer Argues Against Death Penalty for Davis". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 August 2012. 
  3. ^ "Jurors ask judge to sentence Polly's killer to die". The Tuscaloosa News. 6 August 1996. p. 13. 
  4. ^ a b Dougan, Michael (16 July 1996). "Davis's sister recounts his traumatic childhood". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 3 August 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "Richard Allen Davis - San Quentin's Death Row, California". Retrieved 2013-06-18. 
  6. ^ "People v. Davis - 46 Cal. 4th 539, 208 P.3d 78, 94 Cal. Rptr. 3d 322 S056425 - Mon, 06/01/2009 | California Supreme Court Resources". Retrieved 2013-06-18. 
  7. ^ Dougan, Michael (11 July 1996). "Davis's turbulent youth is detailed by relatives". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 3 August 2012. 
  8. ^ a b Thoreson Lykken, David (1995). "3". The antisocial personalities. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. pp. 28–29. ISBN 0-80581974-6. Retrieved 3 August 2012. 
  9. ^ Warren, Jennifer; Richard C.Paddock (4 December 1993). "Suspect's Palm Print Found in Klaas Home". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 August 2012. 
  10. ^ a b c d "Police ask if Klaas suspect killed woman". Times News. 14 December 1993. pp. 6A. 
  11. ^ a b c d Fields-Meyer, Thomas (13 May 1996). "Odyssey of Violence". People. Retrieved 3 August 2012. 
  12. ^ "People v. Davis Supreme Court of California". Retrieved 2013-06-18. 
  13. ^ "Polly Klaas' killer survives opiate overdose". Associated Press. 25 July 2006. Retrieved 4 August 2012. 
  14. ^ "Davis Death Sentence For Klaas Murder Upheld". KTVU. 26 February 2009. Retrieved 4 August 2012. 
  15. ^ "Scocal". Retrieved 2013-06-18. 

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