Davis declared innocent in 1980 Rantoul murder

Davis declared innocent in 1980 Rantoul murder

URBANA — A man who was convicted of a 1980 Rantoul murder and served 32 years in prison before new DNA evidence led to his release has been granted a certificate of innocence in Champaign County Circuit Court.

The order was signed Wednesday by Associate Judge John Kennedy and made public Thursday.

In his order, Kennedy wrote that Andre Davis, now 51, "is innocent of the offenses charged" and "did not by his own conduct voluntarily cause or bring about his conviction."

Kennedy also ordered the circuit clerk of Champaign County, the Illinois State Police and the Rantoul Police Department to either seal or expunge "all records of arrest" related to Davis' case.

Davis was sentenced to life in prison for the kidnapping, rape and murder of 3-year-old Brianna Stickel. Released from prison last summer after a state appeals court overturned his conviction, Davis lives and works in Chicago.

Davis' conviction was unanimously overturned after DNA testing not available at the time of his trial was linked to one of the prosecution's witnesses, Maurice Tucker. Tucker lived with his brother, Sonny Tucker, in the residence where the child's body was found.

Her body was found on the bed in Maurice Tucker's bedroom. Next to the body, investigators found "semen mixed with the victim's blood." DNA testing 34 years later revealed that the source of the DNA was Maurice Tucker, a circumstance that not only cleared Davis but undermined the original prosecution theory of the case.

Tucker now lives in Minnesota. Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz said the passage of so much time since the murder makes it impossible to retry the case.

Davis filed his request for a certificate of innocence in February, a move that could have led to a full-scale hearing on the issue.

Rietz announced last week that her office would not oppose the petition. Because there was no opposition, Kennedy granted Davis' petition.

Kennedy's decision paves the way for Davis to receive roughly $200,000 in state compensation for his decades of incarceration.

Petitions of innocence are new to Illinois law and were established by the General Assembly after former Gov. Rod Blagojevich ignored his duty to consider pardon requests during his six years in office.

The civil, as opposed to criminal, process requires petitioners like Davis to show by a preponderance of the evidence that they are innocent. That burden of proof is considerably lower than that in criminal courts, where prosecutors must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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Ellen wrote on May 09, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Though this man cannot retrieve the last 32 years of his life, I am glad that justice was served for him and he was released. BUT..what about the 3 year old child that was raped and murdered. Where is HER justice? The case is too old to retry although they have DNA from the perpetrator's semen mixed with the victims blood? AND they know where he lives?? WHERE IS THE JUSTICE FOR BRIANNA STICKEL?

Ellen wrote on May 09, 2013 at 7:05 pm

I truly don't think there was a need to be condescending. I voiced my opinion and you voiced yours. I truly do not understand how you can say that it could have been any of the Tucker's in the house when although 99.9% of human DNA sequences are the same in every person, enough of the DNA is different to distinguish one individual from another, unless they are monozygotic twins. I'm almost certain there were no such twins in the household. I'm sure there have been many verdicts delivered on LESS evidence than what they have in this case. I seek justice for the 3 year old violently abducted, raped and murdered while her perpetrator lives OUTSIDE of the jail that you speak of in another state free to repeat what he has done before again.

Avalon wrote on May 10, 2013 at 2:05 pm

"Julia Rietz said the passage of so much time since the murder makes it impossible to retry the case." What a bunch of BS. Here are two cases that show what can be done when true justice is sought:     http://www.tennessean.com/article/20130503/NEWS/305030161/Case-closed-Prosecutors-win-conviction-34-year-old-murder-case,   http://couriernews.suntimes.com/news/crime/15143191-418/former-neighbor-found-guilty-of-1957-murder-of-7-year-old-girl.html   My respect for Julia Rietz is gone. Her only motives are covering up for the mistakes of then States Attorney Difanis and Rantoul Police Chief Eldon Quick and others.

Stephen44 wrote on May 11, 2013 at 7:05 am
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It's a shame when Julia Reitz wanted to keep Davis in prison and now they don't want to go after a triple felony suspect and to boot a murderer. She should be recalled by the people of Champaign County for not serving the people who elected her. The mistakes made by all the authorities there need to be cleaned up. It's no justice there when they lock up petty drug dealers and let the rapist, murderer, kidnapper go and be loose on the citizens. What if he came back to the area? Would they go after him then? What about the other DNA that was found there? He's out doing the same thing too probably and there's no justice for Brianna. That's just my opinion about this case and murder is never a closed book situation. Julia Reitz needs to do something about this open murder.

Local Yocal wrote on May 13, 2013 at 4:05 am
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There is no statute of limitations for a murder case, and authorities have plenty of probable cause to issue a warrant for Maurice Tucker's arrest in Minnesota. Whether or not Tucker will be found guilty of Stickle's murder is for a jury to decide.

In fact, Champaign County prosecutor Troy Lozar successfully prosecuted former Illini football player Steve Feagin in 2012 for a rape that occurred in 1995 using very old DNA samples, samples that were preserved all this time. Feagin was sentenced to 90 years.

Listen to how Rietz bragged in the Feagin case: "Technology caught up with him. It was inevitable that this was going to be the result."

So,......what is really going on here? Why has Champaign County invested 8 years of legal paperwork for the fight to keep Andre Davis behind bars, and why is Maurice Tucker protected from prosecution- other than the state's attorney's professional incompetence?