Sentencing Postponed in Controversial Keith Davis Jr. Murder Case
The sentencing hearing for Keith Davis Jr., convicted in the 2015 murder of a Pimlico security guard, was interrupted Friday after Davis’ lawyer moved for a new trial.
Baltimore Circuit Judge Sylvester Cox said he would reconvene on Monday in the politically charged case.
Davis lawyer, Deborah Levi, argued that Assistant State’s Attorney Patrick Seidel, who prosecuted the case, manipulated evidence in his closing argument and denigrated her client by referring to him as “Mr. Howard County” who doesn’t belong in Baltimore."
She said jurors were "enflamed with the passion to protect their community.”
Davis was convicted last summer of second degree murder in the death of Kevin Jones, the Pimlico security guard, after five trials, four of which were for the murder. One observer said his trials took numerous "strange turns."
Davis’ story begins soon after Freddie Gray’s story ends.
Several weeks after Gray died in 2015 from injuries sustained while in Baltimore Police custody, officers chased Davis into a garage in the northwest neighborhood of Park Heights.
They said they were looking for the man who jumped into a car and pointed a gun at a cab driver and they thought Davis was their man when he ran from the police. Bullets flew and hit Davis in the face and in the neck. He lay in the garage unconscious.
And after that, things got tricky, says Amelia McDonnell-Parry, the host and reporter of the podcast, Undisclosed: The State vs. Keith Davis Jr.
"Every part of this case, there's not one thing about it that's not grimy," she says. "There's something wrong, weird, missing."
After Davis was shot, police recovered a handgun from the garage. And "they maintained up until his first trial that he had fired at the officers," says McDonnell-Parry.
But in that trial, the cab driver said Davis didn’t look like the guy who’d held him up that Sunday morning. And the gun that was in the garage, atop a refrigerator, was found to not have been discharged.
The jury found Davis not guilty of holding up the cab driver and shooting at police. But because he had a prior record, the jury convicted him of unlawful possession of a gun.
A week later, the state’s attorney’s office linked that gun to the murder of Kevin Jones, the Pimlico security guard who was killed a few hours before police chased Davis into the garage.
David Jaros, a law professor at the University of Baltimore, says there are odd twists in this police-involved shooting just weeks after Freddie Gray's death.
"Suddenly, the gun that is found in this garage is a match to this unsolved murder," he says. "Now, that doesn't mean it can't happen, but it should at least raise one's eyebrows and say, 'I want to look at this carefully.'"
At the time of Davis’ arrest, the city was still reeling from Freddie Gray’s death and the unrest that followed. And this case should be viewed in that context, as well as in the context of everything that has happened since. Jaros says.
Davis and his lawyers say police planted the gun on him to justify the shooting.
That would follow the pattern, discovered later, of the discredited Gun Trace Task Force officers, who planted guns and other evidence.
Davis' first trial in May 2017 ended in a hung jury. In the second trial in October 2017, prosecutors brought in a witness who was discredited as a known jailhouse informant.
Right before the third trial in June 2018, the Civilian Review Board, an independent city agency that reviews police conduct - said the officers who had shot and arrested Davis used excessive force and gave contradictory testimony to investigators. They recommended two police officers be fired and two be suspended. Two of the officers are still on the force, one resigned, and its unclear what happened to the fourth officer.
Prosecutors pressed on with the trial.
Melba Saunders, spokeswoman for the state's attorney, said at the time, "the board's findings are separate and apart from the criminal proceedings currently pending against the defendant, for which we cannot comment."
Jaros says he doesn't have a stance on Davis' innocence or guilt, but Baltimore's justice system looks tainted to him.
"Whether by deliberate acts by the State's Attorney's Office or [police] officers, there is some point at which the process simply hasn't functioned in the way we want it to," he said.
He says no one should feel "comfortable" with this conviction.
Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, hasn't spoken about the case at length, but at one point she did say she felt justice had been served.
"He was tried in front of a jury of his peers. [They] determined that he was a felon in possession of a handgun - that gun was tied to a pending murder case," Mosby said. "My job as State's Attorney is to ensure justice for Kevin Jones. It's not about Keith Davis for me. It's about Kevin Jones. That was the victim of the homicide."
But Davis' family says they're still looking for justice.
This post has been updated.