ASBPE names ABA Journal’s Kevin Davis its Stephen Barr Award Winner


The business-to-business editors group ASBPE presented its 2019 Stephen Barr Award to ABA Journal managing editor Kevin Davis for his powerful study of Chicago police extracting false confessions from suspects.

At its national conference May 9 at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, ASBPE cited Davis for his article “Under Questioning: The Chicago police legacy of extracting false confessions is costing the city millions.” The powerful and deeply backgrounded study for ABA Journal examined 30 years of police abuses in extracting false confessions from accused in the City of Chicago.

The article focused on the case of four teens who had said they were responsible for a 1995 double murder in Chicago. They were exonerated only after two decades of appeals by their lawyers, in which it was proved that police had obtained confessions through threats and intimidation. Going far beyond that case, Davis used National Registry of Exonerations data to illustrate how Chicago had been the leading police department in obtaining false confessions for nearly 30 years. His most powerful support came from his interviews with those who had been wrongly convicted, although defense lawyers, prosecutors and outside experts lent their support to his reporting.

One Stephen Barr judge called the winning article “an absolutely gripping narrative about longstanding police malfeasance, which has created almost unimaginable personal consequences for victims and financial burdens for an entire city.”

Said Davis’s editor and publisher, Molly McDonough, “Kevin is a talented storyteller. His pieces are carefully reported with important details: facts, science and the law.” McDonough adds, though, that it is his ability to capture details about “the people whose lives are impacted that makes him truly outstanding as a reporter and editor.”

This is ASBPE’s 16th Stephen Barr Award, named for one of the organization’s most honored journalists, who died of cancer in 2002 at the age of 43. Unlike other ASBPE awards, it honors individual writing across our feature categories, and especially work that shows inventiveness, insight, balance, depth of investigation, and impact on readers. A check for $500 accompanies the award, endowed by Stephen Barr’s parents and administered by the ASBPE Foundation.

Other ASBPE awards for 2019 included Magazine of the Year honors to Professional Builder in the more-than-$3-million revenue category, and tED magazine in the less-than-$3-million category. American Banker was named Website of the Year, and Architect received top honors for its Cross-Platform Package of the Year.