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Inmate hopes for freedom, new relationship with son

From the visitation room at the Spokane County Jail, Jeramie R. Davis talks about the recent break in his case where DNA on a murder weapon was matched to a different man. Davis, 37, is hopeful the new evidence will prove he was wrongly convicted of murder. (Colin Mulvany)
From the visitation room at the Spokane County Jail, Jeramie R. Davis talks about the recent break in his case where DNA on a murder weapon was matched to a different man. Davis, 37, is hopeful the new evidence will prove he was wrongly convicted of murder. (Colin Mulvany)

‘I’m not going to hold my breath’

A man who has spent more than three years in prison for a murder he maintains he didn’t commit suddenly has hope he might be released and reunited with his son.

Jeramie R. Davis, 37, is serving a 40-year sentence for first-degree murder and second-degree burglary in connection with the June 17, 2007, bludgeoning death of a 74-year-old porn shop owner, John Gordon Allen Jr. Now, forensic evidence has led to the arrest of another suspect in the case, Julio R. Davila, 45.

Authorities are still investigating, including the possibility Davis and Davila acted together, but Davis said he is cautiously optimistic his murder conviction will be vacated in light of the new arrest.

“If I can get put in here so easily, with so little, (and) get convicted of this, then yeah, I’m hopeful, but until that judge says in the open court of law that I’m innocent, I’m not going to hold my breath,” he said. “At this point, I’m confident that the detectives and the prosecutors are on the right track.”

Davis has always maintained his innocence in Allen’s murder, as has his family.

“They know I’m innocent,” he said. “I knew the Lord one day would shine a light on that.”

His sister, Tina Jackson, has always been on his side, but the two haven’t spoken in the past few years.

“I don’t know what to think right now,” Jackson said tearfully on Wednesday after learning of the new arrest. “I just want him to be exonerated. I knew all along he didn’t do it. I told them. I told them.”

Police recently connected DNA evidence collected from the murder weapon, a baseball bat, with Davila after his DNA was collected for an unrelated felony conviction. In addition, a palm print found at the scene belongs to Davila, according to police. He was arrested July 11 and booked into Spokane County Jail for first- and second-degree murder.

Davis and Davila have both said they don’t know each other.

Meanwhile, Davis was transferred from the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla to Spokane County Jail.

“As far as Jeramie Davis goes, we’re kind of at the mercy of the state,” said Davis’ public defender, Jeffrey Leslie. “I really hope they end up doing the right thing.”

Clearing Davis of the murder conviction would take an agreement by all parties involved, including the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office, his defense attorney and police, Leslie said.

“Legally speaking, this is very unusual,” he said. “The court doesn’t have jurisdiction; it’s gone to the court of appeals, it’s gone through the process.”

He added, though, “If the state believes he didn’t do it, I think they’re going to do something about this. They don’t want to see an innocent person wrongfully convicted.”

From behind the glass of a visitor’s booth at Spokane County Jail, Davis, in a navy blue jail jumpsuit, talked about his desire to build a better relationship with his 3-year-old son, who he has seen just a handful of times.

“I’m happy at the fact that I have a second chance to be a father, hopefully,” he said. “The hard part is that he looks at you and doesn’t know who you are. I think being a father completes my dreams.”

Davis told police when he entered the East Sprague Avenue porn shop, Allen’s Best Buy Adult Bookstore, he found Allen on the ground, but he thought the 74-year-old man was intoxicated and had passed out. Police say Davis stole goods from the store before going to his sister’s house. She suggested the two go check on the store owner in case he was having a medical emergency. It was then, about four hours after discovering the unconscious store owner, that the two realized the man was critically injured and called 911. Allen died of blunt force head trauma the following day.

Davis admitted to stealing merchandise from the store but maintained throughout the investigation he did not harm the owner. He was convicted by a jury in 2008. Davis said his faith in God, his family and a close friend have helped him through the last three years of incarceration.

“There’s a reason everything happens in life,” he said. “The Lord has a purpose. If he was trying to get my attention, he got it.”

Davis, whose criminal history includes felony property crime convictions and one assault conviction, has no infractions since he’s been in prison, where he works in a sign shop, seven hours a day, five days a week. In his down time, he watches television or reads the Bible and books about wrongful convictions, he said.

“I don’t know if I’ve lost faith, but it’s an imperfect system,” he said. “Circumstantial evidence opens the door wide for wrongful convictions. I never have trusted the system 100 percent.”

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