• Clayton Hauck
  • Andre Davis, 32 years after he was convicted of rape and murder

Two years ago, Andre Davis was released from prison after DNA evidence pointed to another man in the 1980 rape and murder of three-year-old Brianna Stickel. Of the 100-plus inmates wrongfully convicted in Illinois, Davis had spent more time than any of them behind bars: 32 years.

On June 11, Davis was arrested on murder charges again—this time for the October death of 19-year-old Jamal Harmon. Authorities allege that Davis’s nephew shot Harmon following a dispute about a dice game, and that Davis then stabbed the teen and dumped his body in a south-side alley.

I spent some time with Davis for a two-part story published last year in the Reader—a month before Harmon was killed. I found him to be friendly, articulate, and intelligent. He was also guarded, suspicious, and tense.

As I recounted in the story, I first met him at his south-side apartment in February 2013. He told me at the time: “For 30 years everything was going wrong in my life. Now everything is going right. . . . Every day a new door opens for me. I have the rest of my life to live.”

However, Davis’s mother said that in the months after my visit she saw more of her son’s anger emerge. The relationship between mother and son had been strong throughout the decades of his incarceration, but it became strained once he was free. “He’s disrespecting me in a way he never did in all those years in prison,” Emma Davis told me last year. “My son is a changed man.”

Attempts to reach Emma Davis for this story weren’t immediately successful.

Assistant state’s attorney Robert Mack said that on October 7 Davis was at a party hosted by his nephew on the 6500 block of South Ross. Harmon and Davis’s nephew got into an argument, after which the nephew shot Harmon, Mack claimed. But a witness allegedly revealed that Harmon was still alive and making sounds. Authorities believe Davis put Harmon in the trunk of a Cadillac and dumped his body in an alley on the 7600 block of South Carpenter Street. According to Mack, Davis told someone the next day that he had slit Harmon’s throat. Harmon had been shot three times and stabbed four times.

In 2003, two decades into his 80-year prison sentence for the murder of Brianna Stickel, Davis wrote a letter to the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University. Jane Raley, an attorney with the center, would later say she believed in Davis’s innocence immediately. Unprompted, he had offered to take a DNA test, which to her suggested he was telling the truth. Over the next eight years Raley wrote court briefs, filed appeals, and tracked down DNA evidence on Davis’s behalf. When he was released, in 2012, it was due in large part to Raley’s efforts. (E-mails to Raley weren’t immediately answered).

When I spoke with Raley last year, she said she had remained in regular contact with Davis after his release. “He is loaded with support from his family,” she said, “and he is just able to hang in there somehow.”

  • Courtesy Judi Stickel
  • Andre Davis with Jane Raley, the Center on Wrongful Convictions attorney who worked to free him