CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — A Chicago man who spent more than 30 years behind bars before DNA evidence helped overturn his conviction in the rape and killing of a 3-year-old girl was released from prison late Friday, just hours after prosecutors dropped the case against him.
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 wasn't his. The girl was attacked in Rantoul, about 20 miles north of Champaign.
Davis was released from the super-maximum security prison in Tamms in far southern Illinois around 7:30 p.m., said Illinois Department of Corrections spokeswoman Kayce Ataiyero. 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, which represented Davis, said he was the longest-serving of the 42 people exonerated by DNA evidence in Illinois.
"Mr. Davis served 32 years in prison for a rape and murder he didn't commit," Royal said. "Tamms is a difficult place to do time. He's hoping to rebuild his life, with the support of his family."
It wasn't immediately known if Davis' family was at the prison when he walked out. Davis' father was traveling to Tamms on Friday afternoon and couldn't be reached for comment.
Reitz said that while she didn't 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 those tests.
"After 30 years, witnesses are either deceased, missing or no longer credible to testify," said Rietz, who has been state's attorney in Champaign County since 2004. "Based on the age of the case and the current state of the evidence, we elected to dismiss."
She noted that Davis was twice convicted by juries. His first conviction was overturned because of a mistake made by a bailiff during jury deliberations.
Rietz said any further steps in the investigation of Briana's death will be up to police. Rantoul Police Chief Paul Farber did not return a call regarding the status of the investigation.
Davis was arrested shortly after Briana was found on Aug. 8, 1980, in a house on the street where she lived with her mother and stepfather in Rantoul.