Activist DeRay Mckesson on the continuing trials of Keith Davis, Jr.
Today on Midday, we are going to talk about the case of Keith Davis, Jr., who is accused by the Baltimore State’s Attorney of murdering Kevin Jones in 2015.
Mr. Davis has already been tried four times for this murder. Two of those trials ended in hung juries. The other two, including the most recent one, ended in guilty verdicts that were overturned. Mr. Davis remains in jail while awaiting his fifth trial, which is currently scheduled for May, although it could be delayed.
This case has garnered a lot of public attention, largely due to the efforts of Mr. Davis’ wife, Kelly, and a passionate and vocal group of advocates who for years have been critical of State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and the prosecutors in her office. These advocates have been working to bring the details of the case to wide attention.
One of those advocates is DeRay Mckesson, who joins us today. DeRay is an activist and co-founder of Campaign Zero, an organization founded to combat police violence. Campaign Zero has taken-up the cause of Mr. Davis, claiming that Ms. Mosby’s prosecution is due to what the group calls “vindictiveness and personal and political animus.” That was the language used in a motion to dismiss the case filed on March 8 by Deborah Katz Levi, the Director of Special Litigation at the MD office of the Public Defender.
We made the State’s Attorney’s Office aware of the fact that we would be talking about this case today on Midday. Citing that it is an on-going legal matter, they declined to participate in the conversation.
Here’s what’s happened in the case so far: Kevin Jones was shot to death in June of 2015, as he walked to work at Pimlico Race Course in Northwest Baltimore. In 2016, Keith Davis was tried on charges of armed robbery of a cab driver, a charge for which he was acquitted. He was, however, convicted of illegal possession of a firearm and sentenced to five years in prison. In 2017, he was charged in the murder of Kevin Jones. Davis’ trial in May of that year ended in a hung jury.
He was re-tried in that case several months later. In that trial, he was found not guilty of first-degree murder, but guilty of second-degree murder. That verdict was overturned because the court found that the prosecution had not informed the defense and the jury of the background of one of the witnesses, a jailhouse informant.
A third trial, in June of 2018, also ended with a hung jury. A fourth trial, in February of 2020 ended in a guilty verdict. Mr. Davis, who maintained his innocence, was sentenced to 50 years in prison. That guilty verdict was overturned because of problems with questions that were posed to potential jurors. Each of these trials were presided over by different judges, and prosecuted by different lawyers from the State’s Attorney’s office. Last December, Mr. Davis turned down a plea bargain that would have reduced his sentence to 15 years. As mentioned earlier, Mr. Davis remains in jail, awaiting a fifth trial.
We do not know whether or not Keith Davis killed Kevin Jones. There is certainly ample evidence that he did not, but two juries have been convinced by evidence at trial that he is responsible for Mr. Jones’ death. Ms. Mosby has said that prosecutors are pursuing this case to bring justice to Mr. Jones’ family. Mr. Davis’ supporters are seeking justice for him, as well.
(In an unrelated case, Mr. Davis has been charged with attempted murder for an alleged fight he had in jail with another inmate. That fight took allegedly place in June 2020. Mr. Davis wasn’t charged until May, 2021. The delay is cited by Mr. Davis’ lawyer as proof that Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby waited until Mr. Davis was granted another trial in the other murder case before charging him with something else. Again, this is according to a motion to dismiss his case filed on his behalf.)
Host Tom Hall notes that he has not attended the trials, and does not claim to know every detail of this complicated case. Tom has, however, read recent motions filed to the court by the State’s Attorney’s office and the public defender, Deborah Katz Levi, on behalf of Mr. Davis.
DeRay Mckesson is here to explain why he and his organization, Campaign Zero, think the case against Mr. Davis should be dismissed. DeRay is the host of the Pod Save the People Podcast and the author of On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope. In 2016, he was a candidate in the Democratic primary for Baltimore Mayor.
Tom Hall has known DeRay for several years, and believes him to be a thoughtful advocate for whatever causes he champions. He is happy to give him the opportunity to share his perspective and to respond to some of the points the State’s Attorneys have made in the motions they filed in this case a couple of weeks ago.
DeRay Mckesson joins us now on our digital line from Harlem, New York.