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Letter: Davis should not be returned to prison

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

To the Editor:

My heart goes out to Yaphet Davis. It may not be politically correct to express sympathy for a convicted murderer, but one’s conscience must always transcend one’s politics. 

He has now been ignominiously returned to serve out the remainder of his prison sentence. Richard Schmack, our current state’s attorney, has decided that it must be so.

Last year, in the midst of preparing for the Ridulph and Keller murder trials, I directed my tireless Assistant State’s Attorney Julie Trevarthen to complete a review of the Davis case. 

She concluded that an injustice had occurred: The facts and circumstances of the case did not justify a conviction for first-degree murder. My personal review reached the same conclusion. I felt a legal and moral obligation to act.

Davis had already served a lengthy prison sentence. He had been a model inmate.

I reviewed many of his hand-written pleadings and was impressed by the eloquent and persistent presentation of his cause. 

It would have been inconsistent with my oath of office to ignore this case, however expedient such a course might have been. I was reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s admonition that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.

I began the process of righting this wrong. But I lost the election. Trevarthen was fired.  And time ran out. 

I have generally refrained from public comment since being removed from office by the voters last November. Democracies are not well-served if elections do not bring some measure of finality. But much like the unconscionable plea agreement reached in the murder of Antinette Keller, I felt compelled to speak up in support of Yaphet Davis.

It is a travesty to take no action on his case.

In some strained analysis, Schmack has concluded that my treatment of the Davis case was political. Even after all these many months, he seems more focused on recriminations against me than on doing the job right. You would think he lost the election. 

So now Davis will languish in prison with thousands of other black men. Forgotten. He was but a pawn in the cynical world of Illinois politics. Justice, and our State’s Attorney’s office, have been diminished.

Clay Campbell


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