July 07, 2012
The Southern Illinoisan
Murder case dropped, man leaves Tamms
A Chicago man who spent more than 30 years behind bars in the rape and killing of a 3-year-old eastern Illinois girl was released from Tamms Correctional Center about 7:30 p.m. Friday.
An Illinois appeals court in March had ordered a new trial for 50-year-old Andre Davis after tests found that DNA taken from the scene of the 1980 killing of Brianna Stickle was not his. The girl was attacked in Rantoul, about 20 miles north of Champaign.
Davis was released from the super-maximum security about 7:30 p.m.
Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz had decided earlier in the day not to pursue charges against him.
Judy Royal of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University’s law school told The Southern Illinoisan that Davis’ 32 years served is the longest term served “by any known innocent person in Illinois.”
His term is also the longest-served of the 42 people exonerated by DNA evidence in Illinois, she told the Associated Press.
Personnel at the center, which represented Davis, are “very happy that an innocent man who spent 32 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit is being released,” Royal said.
Davis embraced his father, Richard Davis, and called his mother on a cellphone minutes after his release.
A Southern Illinoisan journalist could not get close enough to ask for comment.
Reitz, Champaign County state’s attorney since 2004, said that while she did not doubt the results of the DNA tests, she decided not to retry Davis because of the difficulty in taking a 32-year-old case to trial — not because of the DNA tests alone.
DNA testing wasn’t available in 1980. But in 2004, Davis requested that evidence gathered at the scene of Briana’s death be tested. According to the DNA tests, blood and semen found at the scene were not from Davis. That led to the appellate court decision.
Friday’s release caught Davis’ attorneys off guard. Neither Royal nor Davis’ lead attorney, Jane Raley, could make it to Tamms in time for his release.
Attempts to reach members of Briana Stickle’s family were not successful.