Nearly a quarter-century after a double-murder cost 14-year-old Adolfo Davis his freedom, his lawyers spent hours Monday in a Cook County courtroom battling to end the incarceration of a man they said was simply a “follower with a desperate need for a sense of belonging” in his youth.
But a Cook County prosecutor ripped into the notion that Davis was a “naive, scared, merely present lookout” when bullets tore through an apartment at 56th and South Calumet in October 1990. Assistant State’s Attorney James McKay also went on to say Davis’ behavior as a prisoner since his conviction has been “outrageous.”
So despite a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision that deemed mandatory life sentences for juvenile homicide offenders unconstitutional, McKay said the life sentence Davis is serving for two first-degree murders should stand at a judge’s discretion.
“This defendant should still get natural life,” McKay told Cook County Judge Angela Munari Petrone during a marathon re-sentencing hearing that lasted into Monday evening at the George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building at 26th and California.
One of the survivors of the retaliatory attack on a rival gang took the stand. Melvin Harvey, 48, recalled ducking behind a couch after three men pushed their way into the apartment. At one point, he also stood and showed Petrone the scar left behind by a bullet that pierced his right forearm that day. He also took two bullets in the left thigh that remain there, he said.
“I could have lost my life,” Harvey said.
McKay said Davis confessed to participating in the attack days later. However, Davis’ attorneys said it has never been established that Davis fired a gun, though McKay said the physical evidence indicates there were three shooters that night.
Davis, now 38, spoke briefly on Monday, although not under oath. He said he had taken “full responsibility” for what he had done and said he is a changed man who takes great pride in mentoring youth.
“I’m not that juvenile I was 24 years ago,” he said.
“I stand before you a guilty man,” Davis told the judge. “I pray you find it in your heart to give me a second chance.”
The judge said she plans to take the case under advisement and will rule on it on May
Michael Magana of the Illinois Department of Corrections testified that Davis has bounced between maximum-security prisons after his conviction until 1998, when he went to the now-shuttered Tamms Correctional Center — home to the “worst of the worst” of Illinois’ prisoners. He served nearly four years of his sentence there.
Magana, acting deputy commander of intelligence for IDOC’s central region, said Davis racked up 64 disciplinary reports while bouncing between prisons. Davis was accused of throwing a pudding cup at prison staff, beating staff with a foot-long metal pole, fathering a child with a visitor and writing a letter threatening to kill a warden.
But Davis’ attorneys pointed out he has received no disciplinary tickets since 2006. Jill Stevens, a counselor who met Davis at Tamms, said she heard Davis express “remorse and guilt” over the October 1990 murders. And though Tamms was known for incarcerating the “worst of the worst,” she said Davis was simply “bad enough.”
“I genuinely believe that he has been rehabilitated,” Stevens said, “that he is not the teenage boy in a gang that he was when he was involved in this crime.”
Contributing: Stefano Esposito