Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

Monday, September 13, 1999


William Prince Davis scheduled to be executed

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on William Prince Davis who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m., Tuesday, September 14th.


On the evening of June 2, 1978, Michael Lang and his father, Richard Lang, were closing up an ice cream store Richard Lang had managed in Houston, for eighteen years. As several of the company drivers were turning in their receipts for that day, Davis, twenty-one years old at the time, appeared at the door of the office. Davis ordered everyone up against the wall, then immediately shot Richard Lang once in the lower chest with a .32 caliber pistol. Davis escaped with more than $700 and a shotgun. Richard Lang died; he was sixty years old at the time of his death. Davis was arrested on July 8, 1978. Subsequently, Davis gave a written confession to this offense. According to Davis, Richard Lang made a move towards him so he shot him.


In July 1978, Davis was indicted by a Harris County grand jury for the intentional murder of Richard Lang in the course of committing and attempting to commit robbery, a capital offense. Davis was tried before a jury upon a plea of not guilty. On September 18, 1978, the jury found him guilty of the capital offense. A separate punishment hearing ensued and, on September 19, 1978, the jury answered affirmatively the two special issues submitted and in accordance with state law, the trial court (the 209th District Court of Harris County, Texas) sentenced Davis to death.

Davis' conviction and sentence of death were automatically appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which affirmed the conviction and sentence on February 20, 1980. On November 3, 1980, the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari review.

In February 1981, Davis filed an application for state writ of habeas corpus in the convicting court. On September 13, 1989, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied the application. Davis did not petition the Supreme Court for certiorari review. On July 1, 1991, Davis filed a second application for state writ of habeas corpus in the convicting court. The Court of Criminal Appeals denied relief on December 1, 1993. Davis did not petition the Supreme Court for certiorari review.

In February 1997, Davis filed a motion in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas requesting the appointment of counsel to file a federal habeas petition. After many delays, Davis eventually filed a federal habeas petition on May 8, 1998. On June 2, 1998, the district court entered an order finding that Davis' federal habeas petition was not timely filed and, alternatively, that Davis' claims were not worthy of relief. The district court also denied Davis a certificate of appealability. On October 28, 1998, after full briefing and oral argument, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit similarly denied Davis a certificate of appealability, thereby affirming the district court's denial of relief. The Fifth Circuit denied a motion for rehearing on November 25, 1998, and the Supreme Court denied certiorari review on April 19, 1999.

On April 21, 1999, the convicting court scheduled Davis' execution for September 14, 1999. Several months later, Davis initiated the filing of his third application for state writ of habeas corpus. The Court of Criminal Appeals denied state habeas relief on August 30, 1999. On September 9, 1999, Davis filed a motion with the Fifth Circuit for a stay of execution and for permission to file a successive federal habeas petition. The matter is pending before the Fifth Circuit.


At the punishment phase of trial, the State presented evidence reflecting Davis' lengthy criminal record. On June 9, 1975, Davis pled guilty to the following offenses in the 178th District Court of Harris County, Texas: (1) burglary of a habitation, which was committed on October 14, 1974 (cause no. 220574); (2) aggravated robbery, which was committed on October 14, 1974, with the use of a pistol (cause no. 220575); (3) aggravated robbery, which was committed on September 5, 1974, with the use of a butcher knife (cause no. 220576); and (4) aggravated robbery, which was committed on July 18, 1974, with the use of a pistol (cause no. 220577). Davis received a six-year sentence for each conviction.

In his confession to the instant capital murder, Davis admitted to committing a number of additional offenses upon his release from prison in December 1977. These offenses included: an aggravated robbery in which Davis and another man seriously beat a man in an office building who would not open his safe; the burglary of eight townhouses near the Galleria area of Houston; three burglaries at an apartment complex; two burglaries at a shopping center; four robberies of a service station; and the burglary of an office located next to the ice cream store where the instant murder occurred just one week before.


There was no evidence of drug or alcohol use in connection with the instant offense.


09/21/1999 Rickie Wayne Smith (Harris County)
10/12/1999 Alvin Wayne Crane (Ochiltree County)
10/14/1999 Jerry Walter McFadden (Upshur County)
10/21/1999 Pedro Sosa (Atascosa County)
10/28/1999 Domingo Cantu, Jr. (Dallas County)
11/17/1999 John Michael Lamb (Hunt County)
12/08/1999 David Martin Long (Dallas County)
01/12/2000 Earl Carl Heiselbetz, Jr. (Sabine County)
01/13/2000 Johnny Paul Penry (Polk County)


If this execution is carried out, it will be the 188th execution since executions resumed in Texas in December 1982 and the 24th since General Cornyn took office. This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Erik Cary of the Attorney General's Capital Litigation Division.

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Contact Ted Delisi, Heather Browne, or Tom Kelley at (512) 463-2050