TORONTO - The governor of Florida offered no glimmer of hope on Wednesday to family and supporters of a Canadian man who wants to be transferred to Canada after 31 years in prison in the Sunshine State.
While the federal government has formally agreed to allow William Russell (Russ) Davies to serve out his life sentence for first-degree murder in Canada, the state of Florida has consistently refused to let him go.
"In our state, we are very focused on our victims and their families," Gov. Rick Scott said. "There's a process in our state you have to go through."
Scott, who was at Toronto's Union Station to urge Canadians to visit his state, refused to discuss the situation further.
Davies, 49, of Richmond Hill, Ont., was barely 18 years old in June 1986 when the self-admitted misfit was accused along with five others of gunning down an acquaintance in Tomoka State Park near Daytona Beach, Fla. Two years later, in a seven-hour trial some have denounced as a sham, a jury convicted him of first-degree murder.
A Canadian Press investigation published last year revealed the state's key witness — one of five co-accused who all pleaded out in exchange for probation or short sentences — admitted to having been drunk and urinating out of a car window at the time of the night-time crime. In addition, Davies' public defender Carmen Corrente, now an assistant attorney general, made numerous mistakes at trial.
His ailing parents and a representative had requested a brief meeting with Scott during his visit to Toronto but the governor refused.
Shane Martinez, a lawyer who has recently taken on the case, said Wednesday he had hoped Scott would "do the right thing and have compassion" by allowing Davies to transfer under an international treaty to Canada to serve out his sentence.
"Canada has approved (the transfer) but Florida has been silent so far," Martinez said.
A spokeswoman for the Florida governor in charge of prisoner transfers has repeatedly said Davies' request was "pending." In recent weeks, he has said he was visited by "officials" and signed what Davies termed "pre-release" papers.
Enza Davies, his sister-in-law on hand at the station for Scott's visit, said Davies has turned his life around and would have strong support if allowed to return to Canada.
"It would be a very good thing if he could come on Canadian soil and we could visit him regularly," Enza Davies said. "His parents are too ill now to travel, so it's really important that they see him."
Davies, who has always denied firing the fatal shot, has little hope for parole in Florida, and his best hope of getting back onto the streets is in Canada.
In a recent interview, Davies' 74-year-old mother, Carol Davies, choked back tears as she pondered Florida's intransigence.
"Why can't you bring him back?" Davies said. "Why are you keeping him? There’s no reason that kid should still be there."