Oct. 29, 1998
By BILL LUEDERS
Please pardon Patricia L. Davis if she's not jumping for joy that the Dane County District Attorney's Office has dismissed felony charges against her after belatedly confirming that a far more likely suspect was to blame all along.
"I've gone through hell for the past year and a half," says Davis, a former nurse's aide charged with forging a check stolen from an elderly patient. "I felt like I was in a nightmare."
Davis, who has no criminal history, is on the verge of tears as she recalls being arrested and thrown in jail last spring, then losing both her state nurse's aide license and city taxi-cab drivers permit based on the charges. This led to her being fired from St. Mary's Care Center and Madison Metro, respectively, and to months of scraping to afford her $600-a-month apartment working two new jobs while incurring thousands of dollars of legal bills to keep from being convicted of a crime she didn't commit.
In fact, as Davis argued all along, her ID was snatched and
name forged by a former St. Marys coworker, Deanise Hollingsworth, who
committed a spate of nearly identical crimes for which she is now serving
a six-year prison term. But police failed to investigate this possibility,
because Det. Rick Miller, using handwriting samples that Davis voluntarily
provided, concluded that she had forged the check. (See "A reasonable doubt,"
The case unraveled only after Dan Stein, Davis' attorney, located
samples of Hollingsworth's handwriting in another county; these were sent
to the State Crime Lab
On Monday, Oct. 26, less than two weeks before Davis was to
go on trial (and more than six months after she was arrested and charged),
the DA's office learned that the Crime Lab's handwriting expert, Marshall
Reed, had positively pegged Hollingsworth as the forger. On Tuesday morning,
Judge Maryann Sumi signed the state's motion to
"I certainly regret very much what Ms. Davis has been through,"
says Asst. DA Ann Sayles, who has already contacted the state agency that
yanked Davis' nurses aide
Stein, who thinks the case undersores the importance of defense attorneys, is gracious in victory--up to a point. "I think Ann [Sayles] is honorable and did the honorable thing," he says. "I think the police owe Patty an apology."
Davis feels she's owed more than that; she's now looking for a lawyer
who specializes in civil suits.
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