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1999: Allen Lee “Tiny” Davis, the end of the road for Old Sparky

July 8th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1999, America’s obesity epidemic met Florida’s death penalty politics in the ugly electrocution of Allen Lee “Tiny” Davis.

The reader will discern that Tiny earned his nickname ironically. Reportedly 159 kg (350 pounds) at his death, he’d put his ample heft to work bludgeoning a pregnant mother of two beyond recognition with a revolver handle back in 1982 … and then shooting to death the now-motherless two.

As his appeals meandered through the courts, Davis got fatter — and got high blood pressure, arthritis, hypertension and a wheelchair. Meanwhile, the death penalty was meandering its own way across the weird political chessboard of the Sunshine State.

For the American death penalty nowadays, it’s Texas and then everyone else … but time was that Florida was the capital of capital punishment.

It conducted the first “modern” involuntary execution in 1979. It had carried out three executions before anyone else had more than one. And when the the drip-drip-drip pace of one or two execution nationwide per year in the early 1980’s finally burst into a torrent, Florida led the way with eight of the 21 executions in 1984.

Not until late in 1986 did Texas overtake Florida in the body count sweepstakes.

All that time, Florida was happily using its vintage electric chair, Old Sparky (one of several electric chairs with that moniker), built in 1923 of 100% oak wood and prison labor. And the more the chair’s quasi-medieval ickiness drove other states to lethal injection, the more Floridians cherished electrocution.

Law-and-order Tampa mayor Bob Martinez won the governorship in 1986 on the promise that “Florida’s electric bill will go up.” There was a high-profile botch in 1990, and another in 1997 — flames shooting from the inmates’ heads. What was the state’s Attorney General going to do about it? “People who wish to commit murder, they’d better not do it in the state of Florida because we may have a problem with the electric chair.” Under pressure to move to lethal injection — the chair’s unsightly malfunctions were spawning legal and public relations nightmares that were gumming up the gears — the legislature voted nearly unanimously to keep Old Sparky.

And then along came a giant.

After three-quarters of a century and 266 jobs, Old Sparky was “falling apart” … and that was going to be a problem for a man of Davis’ carriage.

The killer’s lawyers argued that Davis was so fat he couldn’t conduct electricity efficiently and would be slowly cooked to death. According to Slate, Florida authorities were nervous that he’d break the chair during his electrocution and send a disconnected live cable scything into someone else in the room.

It was time for the unthinkable: Florida retired Old Sparky and built a new chair … and supersized it. (Image, from the Florida Department of Corrections)

And it worked, in that it killed Tiny. But what a mess — especially when an ensuing Florida Supreme Court opinion once again upheld the constitutionality of electrocution, and a dissenting judge attached the photos on this page to his opinions. Naturally, they became a grisly Internet sensation.

Old Sparky’s custom-built successor would only manage this single execution before Florida finally got on the lethal injection bandgurney.

Or at least, it’s only managed one so far. Old electric chairs don’t die, they just fade away … and in Florida, Tiny Davis’s chair remains available for condemned prisoners who choose it. Since this date in 1999, none have.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Botched Executions,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Electrocuted,Execution,Florida,History,Milestones,Murder,Notable Jurisprudence,Ripped from the Headlines,USA

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40 thoughts on “1999: Allen Lee “Tiny” Davis, the end of the road for Old Sparky”

  1. Ejen says:

    This has nothing do do with “revenge:” This is justice. “Revenge” is a mob lynching.

    Momma’s right. One thing’s certain & sure: He and his kind will never do that again–in or out of prison. Decades of appeals while these monsters bombard & clog up the the courts with reams of tangential jailhouse “lawyer” essays?

    The “cruel & inhumane” methods of execution, were–done properly–the most efficient & painless: Guillotine, hanging, firing squad. People excusing this evil under the banner of Christian need to read the Gospels: Jesus said it was better that a millstone be were hanged about one’s neck & cast into the sea than “offend one of these little ones” (innocents).

    BTW: I’m a Christian. I confess the OneTtrue Faith given us by Our Lord Jesus himself.

    1. Jenkins says:

      Like a lot of Christians, Ejen, you are no Christian. You cherry pick bible quotes for what ever suits you. Jesus would be ashamed of you.

      1. He still suffered less than his victim

  2. Trisha says:

    I am thinking of Nancy, Kristina and Katherine Weiler. Mr. Davis had no pity or mercy upon them. His suffering was minimal, compared to his victims and the ongoing pain of husband & father of those victims. I also feel sorry for the jail personnel who had to deal with the aftermath of the execution. It looks pretty gruesome.

  3. ashley says:

    This is so sad. We want homicides to stop, but we are killing also to show what? That killing is bad? We are no one to take someone’s life like they’ve decided to take someone elses. We are nobody to say when someone is going to die. Its worse enough to have them n a cell yhinking about their victims, if they decide to take their own life its up to them because probably then they finally realized their own mistake. We should abolish the death penalty.

    1. Frankie says:

      No way! The death penalty works too well as a bargaining chip with vicious murderers as a way to get them to tell families where their loved ones bodies are buried, as well as to admit to crimes they committed in exchange for life without parole.
      Also, these murderous thugs are sedated to death, which is a far kinder death than their innocent victims received. Did their victims even get a last meal? No!

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  5. Lauren says:

    Forgot to mention on my previous we are family victims from another country for an in mate on death row.
    Not sure if family gets to chose whether they want or they don’t want execution for a criminal in USA.
    Either ways death penalty has to end.
    Currently living in country with very low crime rates and no death penalty

  6. Trent says:

    Holy! Is all that blood just streaming from his nosebleed, It looks like somebody splashed him with blood.

    Maybe his stomach ruptured because of the meal he devoured before he was zapped. Eh!

  7. lauren says:

    The posts people have put hear regarding the execution of an inmate bleeding to death from electrocution is sad and disgusting.

    What ever the crime this person did is no doubt unforgivable.

    Putting someone to death for a prison staff is not an easy thing. Also it is not easy for the murder’s and victim’s family.
    It is very hard and causes many times mental breakdowns.

    Many of the people writing comments hear probably have never had a family member or friend on death row or have never been the family of a victim killed by an inmate on death row. Thus there is a use of fowl and hateful language on this comment post. Also reminds me of the unforgiving and merciless nature.

    There have been many innocent people that have been executed and many inmates on death row that are exonerated everyday from death row due to lack of evidence.

    Everyone makes mistakes in life, some severe and some not so severe, everyone has hard times and there is a chance even the slightest that this inmate on electric chair could have been innocent.

    Many of the world’s countries have abandoned the practice of capital punishment. It is just cruel to kill someone with all conscientiousness while they might have killed with lack of conscientiousness.

    Many of you, if not all of you probably believe that an execution of a criminal might be bringing closure to the family of a victim.

    Well, Coming from a family member of a victim (Not the victims of allen lee davis murder) we did not have the choice to seek death penalty for the one who killed our loved member. In fact I felt very bad for the inmates family for going through the exact same pain as us victim family did.

    My family did not beleive in the death penalty no mater how devasted and saddened we were by the loss of out loved one. It did not bring us closure since the exection would not bring back our loved one and fire in our stomach is burning stronger than ever.

    Please understand that an execution of single person is not easy for that person, the victim’s family, the inmate’s family, and the prison staff who have to carry out the state’s order.

    I believe it is time for America to end capital punishment just like the rest of the 60% of the world.

    To the commentators here, please donot use such language when it is such a serious matter.

  8. samskruthi says:

    Look he deserved punishment for what he did.

    I am not saying he should have been let free into society.

    What he did to a mother and her two children is unforgivable.

    However, I felt he did have some mental disabilities.

    He should have had life in prison. I am against death penalty

  9. JasonS says:

    To the person saying Allen Davis murdered that family and had no idea what he was doing because he was mentally ill, abused by his father. You are full of it.

    Truth is Allen Davis’s parents were neighbors with the Weiler family, They were good neighbors for years never had a problem, until Allen Davis was released from prison for armed robbery, He was a loner and a lowlife his parents let him in the house to live, He had no job and his dad was planning to kick him out because he was bumming off them. So Allen Davis planned to rob a house so he chose the Weiler’s as his victims
    He stole a handgun from his brother’s house and went on with the robbery, the day came he went to the house but was startled to find Nancy and her girls there, He chickened out and slayed the family and looted their house in the end. Funny thing is he was caught within just a few days of the murders because his own Father found out what he had done and reported him. So shut up about him being mentally incapitated, He was a cold hearted killer and deserved to be electrocuted. Good riddance!

  10. M. Gregory says:

    Having a sad childhood is not an excuse for beating an innocent pregnant woman to death, then shooting her children in the face. I wish they could dig this disgusting fat fk up, revive him, and fry him again. I hope he suffered, and I wish there was a hell for him to burn in forever.

  11. samskruthi says:

    Truthteller your the biggest idiot

  12. Truthteller says:

    samskruthi you are an idiot.

    Burn in hell “Tiny” you degenerate fat fk!

  13. samskruthi says:

    I forgot to mention. Even the prison guards mentioned Allen had a good above average behavior.

    Rest in peace Allen Lee Davis, Nancy Wieler and her children

  14. samskruthi says:

    This man did not deserve to die. What he did was very wrong indeed by killing a mother and her children.

    However there is reason behind all of it. People have very little sympathy for Allen Lee Davis.

    If you ever got to read some of Allen’s background you will find out that he came from an abusive home where his father would verbally and physically abuse him.

    Allen came from a very poor and uneducated family. His mother married two men who very abusive and alcoholics.

    Allen was bullied in school for being overweight and a stutterer. This resulted in having a very low IQ.

    Not to mention, Allen was molested as a child by some man and was not fed or clothed properly.

    Despite all of this sadness, Allen was a kind and a real gentleman. He helped take care of his sick mother by cooking and cleaning for her. Allen took care of his friends and got along with everyone. He was always a follower and never a leader. He was kind never badmouthed anyone especially his own father. He respected the women in his life and took care of them. And despite the abuse his father and step father gave him, he always helped them and tried so hard to make them love him. He was just a gentle giant with a heart of gold who so badly was denied of love and would do anything to be loved by anyone.

    Allen suffered a lot with his health. He committed this murder because he was helpless and had no job. Due to his health problems in brain from being hit as a child he did not even remember he killed anyone.

    I am not saying what he did was good. Allen did a very wicked thing. However, Allen is not a wicked person. He made his victims suffer. However he would have not done it if only he was loved and properly guided by someone to have a better future.

    Remember everyone deserves a second chance in life.

    WE ARE ALL SINNERS. SO AS SINNERS LET US LEAVE IT UP TO GOD TO DECIDE WHICH ONE AMONG US SHOULD GET PUNISHED. THERE IS A MUCH HIGHER POWER AMONG ALL OF US! -MAHATMA ( GREAT SOUL )GANDHI.

    1. Frankie says:

      You are absolutely insane, making excuses for this heartless thug! A lot of people are abused, bullied, and living in poverty. That’s no excuse for viciously murdering a pregnant woman and her two young daughters. He actually didn’t kill the five-year-old by gunshot – she was injured whilst trying to run from him, so he beat her to death with his gun. Then he had raped the tiny lifeless body of the other little girl!
      And if you really believe that there’s some all-powerful, all-knowing god who lives up in the clouds, than you’re crazier than I first thought. Where was the almighty one when this family was brutally murdered by the fat beast you’re sticking up for? He must have been answering someone’s prayers? There is no such thing as God or heaven or hell.

  15. Kevin M Sullivan says:

    Jcf…you are turned around in your thinking. You see everlasting good in everyone. You believe redemption is for and will be received by everyone. You believe sadistic killers have value and need to be kept alive. And you believe you have God on you side. But your thinking is exceedingly screwed, and you need to wash out your headgear.

  16. JCF says:

    ABOLISH THE DEATH PENALTY NOW! EVERYWHERE! FOREVER!!!

    As horrifying as the pics on this thread are, they are STILL not as, well, shocking, as some of the comments on this thread. The death penalty creates a SICK society, where death produces a clamor for MORE death, and more BRUTAL death. The cycle never ends, until the death penalty is abolished, and forgiveness/restitution/reconciliation happen. Merciful Lord, speed the day…

  17. Momma says:

    No sympathy for this guy. Time for Americans to find our backbone again. There is no way to make death “pretty,” and all the lawsuits complaining about the alleged cruelty of lethal injection prove it’s got nothing to do with prohibition against cruel AND unusual punishment, and everything to do with wanting to keep murderers alive to enjoy a long life and a natural cause of death.

  18. Max Headroom says:

    It should be brought back in every state. I’d volunteer to knife the sizzle switch for them. The more cruel and inhumane the better.

  19. Smith says:

    As evil as nazi Germany was, their method of execution was one of, if not the most humane ever.
    The good old classic Guillotine.

    1. Frankie says:

      The Nazis humane? You’re sick, HUN.
      We sedate our murderers to death now, which is a very humane way to go. I say bring back the guillotine or the electric chair.

  20. frying tonight says:

    wow great pics its about time somone showed us pics of the freak who kill inocent kids and people can’t wait until someone gets the vid bring on electric chair mmmm frying tonight

  21. Sagu Pirr says:

    He´s got far less of what he really deserves.
    Summary: Allen Lee Davis was convicted of killing a pregnant Jacksonville woman and her two young daughters on May 11, 1982. Davis was convicted of murdering Nancy Weiler, a Westinghouse executive’s wife in Jacksonville who was three months pregnant when she was killed in 1982. Mrs. Weiler was “beaten almost beyond recognition,” with a .357, hit over 25 times in the face and head. Her 9-year-old daughter Kristina was tied up and shot twice in the face, and her 5-year-old daughter Katherine was shot as she was trying to run away and then her skull was beaten in with the gun.

  22. William Taylor says:

    Nothing at all was to severe for this slug. They should have bludgeon him to death like his victims.

  23. Ricky Down says:

    what the hells wrong with you

  24. Andrew Joyce says:

    bring back old sparky NOW!

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