Prosecutor won't fight petition for innocence

Prosecutor won't fight petition for innocence

URBANA — Facing a Wednesday deadline, Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz announced that her office will not file a legal objection to a petition for innocence filed on behalf of a man convicted of a 1980 murder in Rantoul.

Andre Davis, now 51, was sentenced to life in prison for the kidnapping, rape and murder of 3-year-old Brianna Stickel. But he was released from prison last summer after the 4th District Appellate Court in Springfield overturned his conviction. The unanimous decision was based on previously undiscovered DNA evidence that linked another man, not Davis, to the child's death.

Davis filed the petition for innocence in February in an effort to formally clear his name as well as become eligible for roughly $200,000 as compensation for the 32 years he spent in prison.

Rietz said last week that she was leaning toward objecting to the petition for innocence, but that she changed her mind because she decided that objecting would be inconsistent with a prosecutor's duty to prove a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

"I don't want to be in the position of arguing that someone has not proved their innocence if I believe I cannot prove their guilt," Rietz said.

Petitions of innocence are relatively new to Illinois law. Civil in nature, petitioners like Davis are required to show by a preponderance of the evidence that they are innocent.

That is separate and distinct from criminal cases, where prosecutors bear the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant is guilty.

The petition now stands before Associate Judge John Kennedy, with the only party being Davis.

In addition to the state's attorney's office, Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office also declined to object to Davis' petition.

Since his release from prison, Davis has been living and working in Chicago.

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