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Leon Davis Jr. : "What, did I hit the lottery?"

6:47 PM, Feb 8, 2011   |    comments
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BARTOW, Florida -- Leon Davis Junior, the Polk County man accused of burning two women alive, took the stand in his own defense today.

The 34-year-old Davis was never asked point-blank if he killed insurance office workers Yvonne Bustamante and Juanita Luciano, but Davis and his lawyers seemed to have an alternative excuse for almost everything prosecutors have thrown at him.

After more than three years and two mistrials, Davis' testimony was highly anticipated, but ultimately far less dramatic than court watchers has predicted. For about three hours, Davis offered brief, mostly yes-and-no answers to questions his lawyers hoped would create doubt.

Davis, wearing a peach-colored dress shirt, was well-composed, and respectful. He almost always answered while making eye-contact with the jury.

There were no bombshell contradictions in his testimony. No confession that the victims' relatives had hoped for.

Alicia Littleton, the victims' aunt who has been in court throughout the trials, said, "He needs to tell the truth. And it would ease my heart and the girls would rest."

In court, questions centered on Davis' finances: his monetary motive, say prosecutors, for robbing, binding and burning the women at their Lake Wales insurance office in December 2007.

Cuts on Davis' hands and face that day? From a brawl at his son's rec center, he said.

Tattoos on his arms? Hard to see in that Walmart surveillance video prosecutors have used to link Davis to the crimes.

Silver duct tape allegedly used to bind the women? Borrowed to fix a tear in his silver sneakers, Davis said.

And when a friend told Davis his name and face were plastered on TV and that  a manhunt was underway, he claims he had no idea why.

"The first words that came out of her mouth was that I was on the news, and I asked her, 'What, did I win the lottery?'  and she said 'I'm not joking.'"

On point after point, Davis offered an alternative -- although not always compelling -- explanation, and claims he never told friends and relatives he'd done anything wrong that day, even though at least two witnesses testified he had told them just that.

"Well, I didn't tell them anything," said Davis.

With Davis' testimony now in the court record, lawyers say they have only a couple of expert witnesses left to hear from. One of those witnesses is expected to offer expertise in the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. The other one or two are medical experts.

After that, the case may go to the jury, perhaps by the end of the week.

Eric Glasser, 10 News

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