Exonerated After 31 Years in Prison

     URBANA, Ill. (CN) – An innocent man spent 31 years in prison for the rape and murder of a little girl: eight of them after he had been exonerated by DNA evidence, the man claims in court.
     Andre Davis sued the Village of Rantoul, Ill.; Provena Covenant Medical Center; former Rantoul police Det. Larry Zonfrilli; former Rantoul police Officer Montgomery Portis; former Police Chief Eldon Quick; and Dr. Jose Raquel, a former Illinois Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent.
     Davis says in his federal complaint that the defendants fabricated evidence to wrongfully convict him.
     “Andre Davis spent over thirty-one years in prison for a crime he did not commit,” the complaint states. “He was wrongfully convicted in 1981 of the kidnapping, rape, and murder of 3-year-old Brianna Stickle as a result of the unconstitutional actions of the police officers and emergency room doctor who are named as defendants in this suit. Despite evidence implicating Brianna’s next door neighbor, Maurice Tucker, the defendant police officers failed to pursue Tucker at the time of the crime, and instead coerced, manipulated and fabricated evidence to create a false case against plaintiff. Other than a medical report that was fabricated by the defendant emergency room doctor during his examination of plaintiff, there was no ‘hard’ evidence – fingerprints, serology, DNA or other physical evidence of any kind – linking plaintiff to the Brianna Stickle murder. However, the force of the defendants’ misconduct was enough to secure a conviction in two separate trials. Years later, plaintiff was exonerated when new DNA evidence excluded him as the donor of the semen left on the bedding where the rape and murder of Brianna Stickle occurred, and established that Maurice Tucker and another as of yet unidentified male were the sources of the semen. After this DNA evidence came to light, plaintiff wrongfully spent another eight years in prison until he was released and fully exonerated. Through this civil rights action, plaintiff seeks accountability and compensation for the massive injuries inflicted upon him from the persons responsible for this miscarriage of justice.”
     Davis claims police mounted their case based on statements made by Donald Douroux, who found the body on Tucker’s bed. Both Davis and Douroux were arrested, according to the complaint.
     “Defendant Zonfrilli interrogated Douroux and, with the participation and/or knowledge and approval of defendants Portis and Quick, coerced, manipulated, intimidated and suggested Douroux into making false statements that implicated plaintiff in the murder,” the complaint states.
     Davis claims that defendant Portis interrogated him for two days.
     “During the course of these interrogations, Defendant Portis, with the participation and/or knowledge and approval of defendants Zonfrilli and Quick, coerced, manipulated, and manufactured false inculpatory statements from plaintiff,” the complaint states.
     As part of the investigation, Davis says, he was taken to Burnham City Hospital to be examined by Raquel.
     “Defendant Raquel reported to the police and prosecutor that he had recovered material from underneath plaintiff’s foreskin which he was able to reliably identify, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, as fecal material, which was consistent with the presence of feces on the victim’s body,” the complaint states.
     “Defendant Raquel’s reports were knowingly false and he knew that he lacked
     sufficient information, skill and knowledge to identify the recovered material as feces.”
     Davis claims the defendants failed to pursue other solid leads, including investigating Tucker.
     “Instead, three days after the murder, defendant Zonfrilli, with the participation
     and/or knowledge and approval of defendants Portis and Quick, manufactured additional false evidence against plaintiff by coercing, suggesting, and manipulating Maurice and Lutellis Tucker into making false statements that implicated plaintiff in the murder, including fabricating evidence that plaintiff left his blue jeans at the scene after committing the crime,” the complaint states.
     Davis claims the defendants’ deceptions continued through the trial.
     “Defendants Zonfrilli, Portis, Quick and Raquel testified falsely at plaintiff’s trial,
     and Donald Douroux, Maurice Tucker, and Lutellis Tucker presented trial testimony which was improperly suggested and manufactured by the defendant Rantoul Police officers,” the complaint states.
     “The false testimony of defendants Zonfrilli, Portis, Quick, and Raquel, and the false, fabricated, coerced and suggested testimony of Donald Douroux, Maurice Tucker, and Lutellis Tucker, was the primary evidence that was presented against plaintiff at his trial.
     “As a proximate result of the above-described misconduct on the part of the defendants, plaintiff was wrongfully convicted of the kidnapping, rape and murder of Brianna Stickle and sentenced to natural life in prison. But for the defendants’ misconduct, plaintiff would have been neither prosecuted nor convicted.”
     In April 1982, the Illinois Appellate Court reversed the conviction and remanded for new trial due to a juror error. But Davis was convicted again in 1983, again based on the false testimony of the defendants, he says in the complaint.
     He maintained his innocence throughout, and says the proof finally came in 2004.
     “DNA typing performed by three different private labs beginning in 2004 revealed
     that none of the blood or semen found on the bedding where Brianna Stickle’s body was found originated from plaintiff,” the complaint states.
     “The DNA typing revealed that two men, neither of whom is plaintiff, left semen
     deposits on top of Brianna Stickle’s blood at the time of the crime. One of these men was identified as Maurice Tucker and the other is currently unknown.”
     Davis filed a petition for relief from judgment due to the new evidence in 2006. Five years later, Champaign County Circuit Judge Charles Leonhard denied the petition, ruling that the new evidence would not have changed the result at retrial. But in 2012, the Illinois Appellate Court, in a unanimous decision, reversed Leonhard’s decision and remanded for a new trial.
     Davis says the state did not appeal, and on July 6, 2012 he was released from prison.
     “The actions of the defendants caused plaintiff to spend over thirty-one years in prison for a crime he did not commit,” the complaint states. “Now a 52-year-old man, he must attempt to make a life for himself outside of prison without the benefit of over three decades of life experiences which normally equip adults for building a life.
     “During his incarceration, plaintiff missed out on the ability to share holidays, births, funerals, and other life events with loved ones, the opportunity to have girlfriends, to fall in love, to marry, and to pursue a career, and the fundamental freedom to live one’s life as an autonomous human being.”
     Davis seeks actual and punitive damages for violations of due process, malicious prosecution, failure to intervene, conspiracy to deprive constitutional rights, intentional infliction of emotional distress and conspiracy.
     He is represented by Ben H. Elson with the People’s Law Office in Chicago.

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