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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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