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Baltimore state’s attorney drops Keith Davis Jr.’s criminal cases #Baltimore #states #attorney #drops #Keith #Davis #Jr.s #criminal #cases #englishheadline


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BALTIMORE — The criminal charges against Keith Davis Jr., who was tried in Baltimore four times for the same murder, are no more.

Shot by police in 2015, Davis, 31, has spent the past seven years locked behind bars on murder charges in the shooting of Pimlico Race Course security guard Kevin Jones. He has always maintained his innocence.

Newly elected Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bates dropped all charges against Davis on Friday morning — ending a case that Bates describes as a tainted prosecution led by his predecessor, Marilyn Mosby, and fulfilling a promise he made to Davis’ wife and supporters over his two campaigns to be the city’s top prosecutor.

“We recognize at this moment with what has happened, the personal animus toward Mr. Davis Jr., his supporters, his family, there’s no way that you can say there would actually be justice with this case,” Bates told The Baltimore Sun in an exclusive interview.

Baltimore Circuit Judge John Nugent ruled in June that one of Mosby’s prosecutions against Davis, an attempted murder charge stemming from a fight he had while incarcerated, had the makings of vindictive prosecution. Nugent also issued a gag order in the case, prohibiting all parties from discussing it. Mosby violated the order and was found in contempt of court last summer.

While Nugent stopped short of dismissing all the charges, as Davis’ attorneys requested, or finding vindictiveness in the murder case, Bates told The Sun he believes it was also a wrongful prosecution.

Deputy State’s Attorney Thomas Donnelly said the case’s prosecutorial history shows “blatant disregard” for the law and for the rules of professional conduct, and that there would be serious questions about the integrity and legitimacy of any future prosecution of Davis.

Public Defender Deborah Katz Levi, who represents Davis, said there were so many issues with the case, from the missing ballistics evidence, to late-to-be-turned-over surveillance footage, to the police shooting investigation, there was no way any prosecution would be done with justice in mind.

“Every single aspect of this case raised questions about the integrity of the prosecution and the integrity of the system,” Levi said.

Jones’ grandmother, Earlene Neals, said she was upset when she learned Thursday that the charges would be dropped against Davis.

”I was screaming and hollering so loud,” Neals told The Sun in a phone interview Friday morning. “Now I’m angry. The system failed Kevin.

”She described the years of court proceedings in the case as stressful for the family.

”He was found guilty and sentenced and then they tell us it’s gonna be another trial. This is crazy,” Neals said. ” Soon as we were able to come to grips with this, they come around and shoot us something else.”

Bates did not say he was declaring Davis innocent, adding that the decision to drop the charges was a difficult one.

“I fully recognize the pain and anguish that repeated unsuccessful prosecutions have caused the victim’s family, and I truly sympathize with them,” Bates said. “Still, as state’s attorney, I have a duty to ensure justice for all, not just the victim but also the accused.”

Davis’ release comes after his wife, Kelly, whom he married while incarcerated, built a grassroots campaign and waged all-out political war against Mosby and the Baltimore Police Department over what she and her husband’s supporters believe was always a sham prosecution.

“I thought we would go through a trial and he would be acquitted,” Kelly Davis said. “I never dreamed of the charges being dropped. I never knew Marilyn Mosby would be gone from office. It took seven years to slay her.”

Kelly Davis organized activists, spending years shining a light on what she believes are Mosby’s wrongdoings and a broken criminal justice system. From rallies to town halls to even Mosby’s ventures out on the town, it was a safe bet that either Kelly or one of her husband’s supporters would be there to demand Keith’s release.

More than anything, Kelly Davis said she has fought so the public can know the truth about what happened seven years ago.

Jones was shot 11 times on his way to work around 4:45 a.m. June 7, 2015, and died in the parking lot of the horse racing track.

Later that day, around 10 a.m., Keith Davis had just bought a pack of cigarettes at a convenience store in the Park Heights neighborhood when someone yelled “gun” and Davis started running, he later recalled, according to court records. He ran down an alley to an auto repair garage, chased by four Baltimore Police officers who assumed he was the man who had just tried to rob an unlicensed cabdriver at gunpoint.

As Davis hid behind a refrigerator in the garage, officers fired more than 30 rounds, hitting Davis three times, including one shot to the head that shattered his jawbone. He was taken to a hospital in critical condition. Later that day, police officials said Davis shot at the officers, and that they found a gun on top of the refrigerator.

Later it was revealed Davis had not shot at the police officers, and that the only shell casings found at the scene were from police service weapons. A report from the city’s former independent Civilian Review Board, which oversaw claims of police misconduct, found “inconsistent testimonies” between the officers as to whether Davis had a gun, and found “serious discrepancies” between what the officers said in court and what they reported to internal affairs.

The board recommended two of the officers be fired from the department and two others be suspended for 30 days. Mosby’s office cleared all the officers of criminal wrongdoing in the shooting.

There is no evidence that the gun found in the garage, which prosecutors for years have claimed was used to kill Jones, had been fired that day. Daniel Lamont, a firearms examiner with the police department, testified at Davis’ third murder trial that there was no gunshot residue in the barrel when police examined the weapon.

Davis, the first person shot by Baltimore Police after Freddie Gray’s death from injuries sustained in city police custody, has always maintained the gun — a target pistol purchased from a Glen Burnie consignment shop frequented by police — was never his.

“I believe they put that gun on me,” Davis testified in 2017, because “they didn’t have a reason to shoot me.”

Davis went to trial for the alleged armed robbery of the unlicensed cabdriver in 2016 and the jury found he was not guilty of and charge except for being a prohibited person in possession of a handgun.

A week later, authorities charged him with murder in Jones’ killing. Police and prosecutors said ballistics testing determined the gun Davis was convicted of having matched casings found at the scene of Jones’ death. The practice experts used to examine the ballistics, known as firearm toolmark analysis, has come under scrutiny more recently and was challenged by Davis’ defense during his murder trials.

His four murder trials went like this: The jury deadlocked in his first trial, in 2017. The same year, another jury found him guilty, a conviction that was later overturned when a judge determined prosecutors withheld information from his defense. There was another hung jury in his third trial. Davis’ fourth, in 2019, led to a conviction, but it was again overturned following a sweeping appellate court ruling.

His attorney had filed a separate motion for a new trial claiming prosecutors misrepresented evidence in their closing arguments, but the motion was made moot with the appellate court’s ruling.

Approximately two weeks after a Baltimore judge tossed out Davis’ conviction and ordered a fifth trial, city prosecutors charged Davis with attempted murder stemming from an alleged stabbing in jail. The charges came almost a year after the altercation.

Citing concerns about the timing of the jail fight charges, Nugent, the Circuit Court judge who presided over Davis’ case most recently, found there was a “presumption of vindictiveness” behind the prosecution.

In his finding, Nugent wrote that there was no weapon recovered in the cell where the altercation happened and that the surveillance video did not show what prosecutors claimed in charging documents.

A former state’s attorney spokeswoman said at the time the office charged Davis in the jail fight because he was awarded a new trial and they considered him “a public safety threat.”

All the while, Kelly Davis and a group of supporters known as “Team Keith,” continued organizing against Mosby. In 2018, they protested during a state’s attorney candidate debate and Mosby addressed the criticism by proclaiming “violent repeat offenders do not like me,” though Davis hadn’t been convicted of a crime of violence before and his wife had no criminal record.

In 2021, Mosby gave the middle finger to a Davis supporter who was riding his bicycle past her at a waterfront bar calling out “Free Keith Davis Jr.” At first, she denied displaying the profane gesture but later, after public backlash, admitted to doing so.

Kelly Davis, who has moved out of Maryland, described the past seven years as “literal hell,” something she wants no one else to go through.

She said she is tired. Tired of trying to go to sleep at night after hanging up the phone on her husband, who was incarcerated hundreds of miles away, and having to hope nothing happens to him before their next phone call in the morning.

“I’m looking forward to being able to just put down my shield and my spear and everything I’ve had to fight with and be a wife and not an advocate,” she said.

Because they wed while Davis was incarcerated, they have never shared a home as a married couple.

Even though Keith is her “best friend,” adjusting to life with him at home will be hard, Kelly Davis said.

“I don’t know what it looks like to live with Keith and I don’t know what it looks like for him to be here every day,” Kelly Davis said.

Kelly Davis said she’s anxious about coexisting in a place her husband has never lived — a place with no sidewalks, no rowhomes, no corner stores.

The couple will have to figure out how to co-parent Kelly Davis’ four children, who consider Keith their father. Even though Keith and the kids talk regularly, Kelly Davis said he will have to adjust to the young adults they’ve become in the seven years he was locked away.

“When you’re incarcerated, time stops for you,” she said. “He doesn’t understand that they’ve evolved in this.”

Keith Davis, in a phone interview with The Sun in August, said he wants to be there for his family.

“Hopefully we can start over and start fresh and be successful,” he said.

Next week their 12-year-old is having a birthday party, the first he will be home for. There is excitement about doing the dull, everyday things. Kelly said they often talk about what it will be like going to the grocery store together. Going to church. To Walmart.

Kelly said that on one recent evening she told her husband about an argument the kids had over whose turn it was to unload the dishwasher, and she jokingly asked whether he really wanted to come home to this.

“The things you take for granted, I would love,” she recalled him saying.

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(Baltimore Sun reporter Cassidy Jensen and librarian Paul McCardell contributed to this article.)

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