Published October 12, 2013
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Alabama Supreme Court on Friday rejected an elderly north Alabama man's appeal to keep the grave of his late wife in the front yard of the home they shared for decades.
The justices, in an 8-3 decision that didn't include a written opinion, issued a brief order, agreeing with other courts in saying that Patsy Davis' body must be removed from the front yard in Stevenson where it had been since 2009. James Davis has said he buried his wife in front of their log home because it was her dying wish.
Parker Edmiston, an attorney representing the city, said work to remove the grave from Davis' yard could begin as early as next week.
The 74-year-old Davis said he does not have the money to pursue the case any further and does not know what will happen next. He said the city has tried to get him to remove the body on his own, but he won't do it, regardless of court rulings.
"I still ain't got no justice," he said.
Edmiston said the first step would be contacting a lawyer for Davis to work out a procedure for disinterment.
"Our heart has always gone out to Mr. Davis in the loss of his wife, but he just didn't follow the law in this case," said Edmiston.
The body of Patsy Davis will be placed in a "proper cemetery," Edmiston said, possibly the city cemetery where James Davis previously was offered two plots as a settlement of the court dispute.
The City Council rejected Davis' request for a cemetery permit for his yard after his wife died on April 18, 2009, but he buried her a few feet from the front porch anyway. The headstone, which Davis keeps surrounded by flowers, is visible from the street.
The city sued to make Davis remove the grave, arguing that laws prohibit people from using their yards as burial grounds inside the city limits, and a judge last year ordered Davis to move the remains to a licensed cemetery.
The removal order was placed on hold to give a state appeals court time to rule, but Edmiston said the order would be enforced now that the Supreme Court sided with the town of 2,600 residents.
"The city has been adamant about this," Edmiston said.
Officials with the Alabama Department of Public Health say family burial plots are not uncommon in Alabama, but city officials worry about the precedent set by allowing a grave on a residential lot on one of the main streets through the old railroad town, located in the northeastern corner of the state.