Killer Who Sparked 3-Strikes Law Survives Overdose

Times Staff Writer

Death row inmate Richard Allen Davis, whose 1993 kidnap and murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas led to California's three-strikes law, overdosed on opiates in his San Quentin Prison cell but was revived, officials said Monday.

San Quentin Prison spokesman Vernell Crittendon said Davis was found unconscious in his cell at 5:13 p.m. Sunday. The infirmary suspected opiates and administered medication to revive him before sending him to a hospital, where opiates were found in his system, Crittendon said.

Davis was returned to his cell hours later.

The overdose is not the first at the prison's death row. On July 10, 2005, inmate Nicholas Rodriguez died from a heroin overdose.

Another death row inmate, Larry Davis Jr., died on Sept. 2, 2005, of what the coroner determined was "acute drug toxicity." But California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Terry Thornton said it was unclear in that case whether the drugs were prescription or illicit.

"In all prisons, drugs make their way inside," she said. "That's a reality."

Crittendon said Davis was being held in the high-security cellblock known as the Adjustment Center and is allowed contact with about 60 other death row inmates. He also has "contact with family, loved ones. There's any number of ways that he could have possibly smuggled small quantities of narcotics into the prison."

No additional drugs were found in Davis' cell, but Crittendon said prison staff have begun "interviews and searches" to investigate the possible source.

State investigations have shown that "staff bringing in drugs accounts for less than 1%," Thornton said. "Most of it comes from visitors."

Fifty California death row prisoners have died since 1978 of causes other than execution. Rodriguez's was the first death by overdose. Thirty-three deaths were from natural causes. Twelve who died were confirmed suicides and several were killed.

Crittendon said there was no evidence that Davis' overdose was a suicide attempt.

Davis, 52, was already a repeat offender when he broke into the Klaas' Petaluma home, kidnapped Polly, then sexually molested and killed her. Outrage over the crime led to California's three-strikes law, which requires a sentence of 25 years to life for a third felony if the first two are serious or violent.

His double status as molester and instigator of the nation's strictest sentencing law has made Davis unpopular in prison.

"He is not well-liked," Thornton said.

Davis routinely corresponds with the Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty, which hosts websites on behalf of death row inmates. In addition to artwork, photos of himself in the exercise yard and a lengthy missive on his childhood titled "a tale of woe," Davis also sought a female pen pal "who can show me how to be in love with life, before execution."

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