Canadian serving life in Florida prison seeks to serve his sentence in Canada
CARRABELLE, FLA -- Russell Davies was a troubled 17 year old, but nothing prepared his Richmond Hill, Ont. parents for what would happen after he stole his boss’s car, his mother’s credit card and disappeared in 1986.
Two years later, Davies was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of an acquaintance and put in a Florida prison.
He is now 51, and about to start the 34th year of his life sentence, with a presumptive parole date of 2041.
In Canada, it’s likely he’d be paroled by now, but in Florida, you do the crime; you serve the time. Davies admits he was at the scene of the killing, but claims he’s not guilty, and was framed for the murder.
His wife approached W5, not to plead her husband’s innocence, but to ask us to share the story of how Florida officials have steadfastly denied requests to transfer him back to Canada, to serve the remainder of his sentence. He wants to be near his wife and his ailing father.
There is an International Transfer of Offender Act between Canada and the U.S. which allows for it. Davies’ request has been rejected by a Florida governor twice. A third application was pending. Now, they’re trying again, and Toronto lawyer Shane Martinez is spearheading the request. He thinks there may be new hope for Davies. Florida’s Governor has conditionally approved the transfer of another inmate, Enrico Forti. Despite opposition from Florida prosecutors, Forti – who is serving a life sentence for murder in Florida - may soon return to his native country, Italy.
As of March 2020, almost 1,600 Canadian inmates abroad in the last 25 years had been transferred back to Canada to serve their sentences; 80 per cent of which have been from the United States. Davies’ family is left to wonder why not him?
W5 approached Florida Department of Corrections in December 2019, and after providing personal identification and criminal background checks, we were approved for a prison interview with Davies at the Franklin Correctional Institution in Carrabelle, Fla., a small town on the Gulf of Mexico. There was a short time frame, as Davies was about to be transferred to another Florida facility.
Our movements were driven by protocol and rules. Camera equipment had to be itemized and screened; there were restrictions on items we could bring into the institution; no purses or cellphones.
Despite the best laid plans, when we arrived at the Institution in January 2020, there was a glitch. The inmate was missing; not as in escaped from prison; but his whereabouts were unknown. W5 was told to stand down.
We watched as a group of top brass, including the warden, deputy warden and correctional officers convened to track him down; and they did. Davies was on a prison bus, along with other inmates, on his way to another institution four hours away. He had been transferred that morning, without prior notice, for security reasons.
What happened next was unprecedented. The warden ordered the bus to stop at a prison midway. He then sent a van to collect Davies and bring him back to Franklin Correctional Institution.
Four hours later, W5 sat down to interview Davies who was unaware there was a camera crew waiting for him. He gave us a candid and compelling interview, his eyes glistening as he spoke about his mother, who later died.
“My mom will never see me again. It’s impossible for her to ever travel to the States. But what difference does it make if I’m in prison here in or in prison in Canada?”
You can watch the story of Russell Davies, this Saturday on W5 at 7pm.