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Issue of October 22, 2014
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Long-time judge Davis removes name from ballot

Dennis Byrd to be Democrat candidate

July 16, 2014 | 10:20 AM

Harrison County Superior Court Judge Roger D. Davis officially announced that he has filed paperwork to withdraw his name from the 2014 General Election.

Davis, who has served for nearly 18 years as judge and has been elected to three terms, said in a statement released Friday that he is humbled by the confidence his supporters have shown in him and noted that his more ardent supporters "have given their unwavering support and asked nothing in return."

"I have worked hard to earn your confidence. Whatever was accomplished at the Harrison Superior Court was not possible without the professional assistance of those working alongside me. Fond memories of those dedicated public servants go with me. Always I have had in mind public safety and solving the difficult problems the people bring to the Courtroom within the confines of the Constitution and the Rule of Law," the statement reads.

"Growing up in a working-class family, I never imagined I would ever have the high honor to serve the people of Harrison County as a judge. Neither could I have imagined the time would come when I would leave this crucial position," Davis said.

In an interview Monday, Davis said removing his name has nothing to do with his health nor is it to spend more time with family and, perhaps addressing the rumor mill, it has nothing to do with the political opponent he was scheduled to face in November, Republican Joe Claypool.

Davis described Claypool as "the weakest opponent" he would have ever faced in an election.

"He has no connection to this community and hardly any experience with the types of cases that come through this court," Davis said. "Every single person I've faced has been far more qualified. (It's) not because I'm scared I'd be beat or that he's such a strong candidate; the primary reason is I'm pursuing other professional opportunities."

Davis said many people can't give up a profession they've had for a long time and sometimes that's not necessarily a good idea.

"There's a good time for someone else to take over an office, a legislative office or an executive office. I think 18 years is enough for me," Davis said. "It might not be for some people but, for me, the circumstances were enough."

Davis said he made his decision at the end of June and officially informed his party on July 2 at 5:30 p.m., which gave Democrats enough time to fill the vacancy on the ballot by the July 15 deadline.

"I don't have anything to do with who the political party chooses to replace me. I do think there are a number of people who would be qualified candidates, who would have a connection to community. Mr. (Dennis) Byrd is certainly one of those people," Davis said.

The first public announcement of who that candidate would be came during the Harrison County Fair parade on Sunday, where former Harrison County Prosecutor Dennis Byrd rode the Democratic Party's float that was adorned with a "Byrd for Judge" sign.

"I'm not promoting anyone. Mr. Byrd has been (in Harrison County) all his life, unlike the person on the Republican ballot," Davis said.

Democrat chair Jim Kincaid said he was shocked at Davis' decision but understands why it was made.

"That job is a stressful job, and you see a lot of the worst of the worst," Kincaid said. "I don't think he wanted to do it for (six) more years. I think he's done a great job, and I'm sad to see him step down. I think he'd have (been re-elected) hands down. I think it's a lot deeper than that. That position wears on people. I think it just finally wore him down and he just wants to change gears a little bit. I wish him the best. He's a good Democrat and has been a good Democrat and has always been loyal to our party. He's a good person."

Regarding the decision to fill the vacancy with Byrd, Kincaid said he believes in his choice. As party chair, he was given the power to appoint a candidate. Other people were considered with Byrd stepping forward.

"I think Dennis is honest, and he's got a good sense of what's right and wrong, and I like how he handled himself as a prosecutor. I think he'll do a good job as a judge," Kincaid said. "People will try to drag him down with what happened with (former Harrison County Sheriff G. Michael Deatrick) and try to throw that back up, but I don't know how he could have handled it any differently. Obviously, I think everyone, including the party, was disappointed with Mike Deatrick, but Dennis handled it the best that he could after the sheriff wouldn't step down."

Deatrick admitted under oath in 2011 to inappropriately touching and intimidating two female dispatchers, obstructing justice by destroying or tampering with digital recordings of him intimidating the dispatchers and filing a false insurance claim on behalf of a former corrections officer. To avoid the appearance of impropriety and/or a conflict of interest, Byrd, who was prosecutor at the time of the accusations by the dispatchers, asked Davis for a special prosecutor one day after his office received a report from the Indiana State Police regarding the dispatchers' claims.

Byrd said he was shocked to learn of Davis' decision.

"I often tell people I thought he was one of the best criminal judges this county has ever had," Byrd said.

Byrd said yesterday (Tuesday) there were some factors he had to consider before he made his decision to run for judge, including a short time to raise money and campaign and "smear tactics that makes one reluctant to do anything."

"Overall, having been born and raised in Harrison County and sharing the same values as the people who live here and serving the people of Harrison County in the past 25 years, I think I give the people a good choice as judge," Byrd said, adding that he has the support of his wife, Terri, and three children. "I've practiced more than 25 years strictly in Harrison County and concentrated on criminal cases both on the prosecution and defense side. I think my experience allows me to be qualified for that position."

Byrd went on to say that he would encourage Claypool to run a clean race as he intends to run a clean race this fall.

"If (Claypool) allows Republican leaders to do smearing and tactics they've used in the past, then he endorses that and is just as responsible for those tactics as they are," Byrd said.

Davis said whatever occupation he gets in the future, he plans on staying in Harrison County after his final day of service on Dec. 31, 2014.

"Whatever I do, or wherever I go, I won't be gone from Harrison County for good," he said. "It's my home, and I have family here and lots of friends."

Twitter: @_alanstewart

  1. print email
    Best wishes
    July 18, 2014 | 08:13 PM

    We will miss you Judge Davis. You are an honorable man, a good friend, and a great judge. I only wish you the best, just as I have watched you do for others for 18 years.

    A supporter
  2. print email
    Big Shoes To Fill
    July 19, 2014 | 09:29 AM

    I have lived here my whole life and can't say how lucky we are to have had Roger Davis as judge. Being judge is a job that rarely make everyone happy. He has had to make decisions in terrible cases. Whoever takes his place will have big shoes to fill.

    Appreciative Citizen
  3. print email
    It will be hard to replace such a great Judge!
    July 19, 2014 | 04:52 PM

    Davis was a blessing in our town! I hate to see him go but do wish him the best in whatever he decides to do. I have spent a few times in his court room and Davis is one of the best Judges around ,it will be very hard to replace such a great person. Thank you Mr Davis and Best wishes

  4. print email
    Good luck
    July 19, 2014 | 07:22 PM

    Roger we had our differences in the past but that was in the past, good luck in the future.

    Forrest Timberlake
  5. print email
    July 20, 2014 | 09:27 AM

    It sure was sad this article turns Judge Davis stepping down in to bashing Mr. Claypool. Sounds like sour grapes to me. I was undecided until after reading this and now will support Claypool.

  6. print email
    Judge Davis
    July 20, 2014 | 09:42 PM

    I have observed scores of cases ranging from domestic violence to murder, from theft to the death of a child, meth and other drug cases, manslaughter and divorce. Your Honor, I have sat through bench trials and jury trials and through it all I have witnessed a judicial court that works very well in the skilled hands of a fair jurist.

  7. print email
    July 21, 2014 | 09:40 AM

    It is very unfortunate that the last newspaper article of Judge Davis' career will be nothing more than a parting political attack on his opponent. Why go so negative against his opponent, especially when he wasn't even a candidate any longer? Also, how can Mr. Byrd request a clean race, when he is front and center making disparaging remarks about Mr. Claypool?

  8. print email
    July 24, 2014 | 09:32 AM

    I have not had a lot of contact with Judge Davis. What little I had I felt he was fair. There is always a lot of negativity about all who serve the public. It is hard to know what is bs and what is truth. In my lifetime I have discovered that Democrats are pretty good at the bs too. I suspect most consistent fair minded observers know that. I am about as well acquainted with Joe Claypool as with Judge Davis. I have never heard him make derogatory statement about Judge Davis. Nothing like I just read from Judge Davis condemning Joe Claypool. Such talk as that is what made a Republican of me, let alone the political differences I have with Democrats. My Country, My Country, My Country. How much more can She stand?? Stewart E. Kopp

    ewart E. Kopp
  9. print email
    Fair Game
    July 24, 2014 | 03:59 PM

    If Claypool is the least qualified,then has Byrd ever went through a full trial before or ever been a judge before? Least qualified? Less than the previous person who ran against him that was involved in drugs?

    Joe Downs
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