Man sentenced to life at age 14 loses bid for freedom

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Adolfo Davis | Photo courtesy ABC 7 Chicago

The plan for Adolfo Davis included a feast on the South Side on Monday and a chance for the man who’d been locked up for almost a quarter century to hug his father, who was left unable to walk or talk from a stroke last year.

Instead, Davis, with tears in his eyes, was heading for just another night of jail grub, after a Cook County judge ruled Monday that the life sentence he received in 1993 was the right one.

“Defendant’s acts showed an aggression and callous disregard for human life far beyond his tender age of 14,” Judge Angela Petrone said.

An abbreviated “boo” echoed from the courtroom gallery of the Leighton Criminal Court Building, as the meaning of Petrone’s ruling became clear. Davis dropped his head to the defense team’s table.

Davis’ family and supporters had pinned their hopes on a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that deemed mandatory life sentences for juvenile homicide offenders unconstitutional. The ruling gave Petrone the latitude to re-impose life, free Davis or choose something in between.

Last month, Davis’ lawyers tried to convince Petrone that their client had been an impressionable “follower” when he’d been involved, at the age of 14, in a 1990 retaliatory gang attack that left two dead on the South Side. Davis’ lawyers also argued their client had been a model prisoner in recent years.

Petrone strongly disagreed, saying Davis was anything but an “innocent child” when he took part in the killings of Bryant Johnson and Keith Whitfield and the attempted murder of two others on Oct. 9, 1990.

“As shown, defendant was a hands-on, active participant in the planning and execution of these crimes. . . .” Petrone said. “He was a willing shooter.”

Davis’ attorneys had asked Petrone to look at their client’s more recent behavior, putting on a host of witnesses — including a priest — who’d testified that Davis was a changed man, a man who wrote poetry and painted in an effort to connect with kids heading down the wrong path.

Petrone noted Davis had done “some good” in prison, but she said some of those who testified on Davis’ behalf were well-meaning but not reliable witnesses.

“Defendant repeatedly threatened the lives of other people — to kill the warden of his prison, to kill a guard, to kill his sergeant,” Petrone said.

Davis’ attorneys, who plan an appeal, say whatever mischief Davis got up to in prison was years ago.

“I’m very disappointed,” said Davis’ sister, Traci Milton. “I’m upset. I’m angry.”

Milton said she thinks Petrone went into the hearing with a closed mind.

The Cook County state’s attorney’s office issued a statement saying the office has begun re-examining the juvenile homicide cases affected by the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling.

“Based upon the heinous nature of this crime and the fact that Davis was an active and willing participant in these murders, we believe that this sentence is appropriate on behalf of the victims of this crime and their families, as well as the People of the State of Illinois,” read part of the statement.

Adolfo Davis Ruling

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