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Opponent's claims against judge regarding killer result in disciplinary charges

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The woman challenging Franklin Circuit Judge Steven Cox for his job faces seven disciplinary charges over statements attributed to her about the judge’s release of a prisoner who a year later killed five people, according to a statement Friday from the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission. The commission has asked for a public hearing on the charges.

Tammy R. Davis of Brookville is accused of making statements she knew were inaccurate about Cox’s modification of a sentence that resulted in the release of David Ison to probation in July 2010. Ison in March was sentenced to life in prison without parole after pleading guilty to the murders of Roy Napier and his estranged wife, Angela Napier; their children, Jacob and Melissa Napier; and Henry Smith in the small town of Laurel.

The killings took place in September 2011. Davis is accused of insisting that Ison’s earliest release date was March 2011. “Although Ison’s release date should have been listed as September 21, 2010, Department of Correction records inaccurately reflected that Ison’s new out date was March 23, 2011,” according to the charges.

“Davis left voters with the mistaken impression that Ison still would have been in jail in February and/or September 2011 and could not have committed certain crimes,” according to one of the charges against her.

The commission provided DOC records to Davis but said in announcing the charges that she “failed to correct the misleading statements made by or attributed to her that gave the inaccurate impression to the public that the defendant would have been in prison and would not have been able to commit certain crimes, including murder, had Judge Cox not modified the sentence.”

Davis also is accused of alleging that Cox modified Ison’s sentence because the two were boyhood friends, a charge the JQC said is unsupported by evidence.

The JQC said Davis’ statements regarding Ison appeared in local newspapers, in her campaign literature and on her campaign website. According to the JQC, the charges are:

  • Counts 1 and 3: Davis failed to correct inaccurate statements attributed to her in newspaper articles, an alleged violation of Rule 4.2(A)(1) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, requiring that candidates act at all times in a manner consistent with the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary;
  • Count 2: Davis made, with reckless disregard for the truth, inaccurate statements on her campaign website and in political ads in violation of Rule 4.1(A)(1) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which requires judicial candidates to not knowingly, or with reckless disregard for the truth, make any misleading statement;
  • Count 4: Davis’ statement on her campaign website that intended to give the impression to voters that her opponent was granting favors to a defendant based on some improper relationship was a violation of Rule 4.2(A)(1);
  • Count 5: Davis’ quote in an August political advertisement gave the improper impression that her opponent could not be trusted with the community’s safety and was a violation of Rule 4.2(A)(1); and
  • Counts 6 and 7: Davis authorized statements such as “Franklin County deserves an honest judge who will do the right thing” in campaign ads and claimed that Cox should not have filed an ethical complaint with the commission in violation of Rule 4.2(A)(1).


The JQC asked the Supreme Court for a public hearing on the charges. Davis has 20 days to answer the charges, after which the Indiana Supreme Court will appoint three judges as special masters to conduct a public hearing, according to the JQC’s statement.
 
The Supreme Court has final authority over judicial discipline and can dismiss the charges or impose sanctions ranging from a reprimand to a permanent ban on holding a judicial office in Indiana.

Davis’s website, www.tammydavisforjudge.com, contains a section on Ison that includes DOC records and Cox’s order that modified Ison’s sentence after a divorce hearing at which Cox later said Ison and his wife had reconciled. Midday Friday, the Ison section of Davis’ site concluded, “the bottom line remains: without Steve Cox, David Ison would have been back in prison after his divorce hearing on July 15th, 2010.”

Davis was admitted to the Indiana bar in May 2006 and has no concluded disciplinary history, according to the Indiana Roll of Attorneys.

 

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  • dubious exercise amid an election
    With all this talk about democracy and so forth, its interesting that the bar involves itself in policiing political speech amidst an election. I think that does not reflect well on lawyers. Americans have to pay big money for foreign wars and domestic elections and they should get the benefit of all this lip service to democracy without this kind of apparent interferce in the political process. There is a danger here that voters will be unduly swayed by this commission inquiry and that it may be seen as the establishment protecting turf.

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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