Prosecutors allege Keith Davis gunned down Pimlico Security Guard Kevin Jones in June 2015 during a botched robbery attempt, after which Jones took refuge in a nearby garage with a gun, prompting police to shoot him three times.
But his defense attorney says Davis had nothing to do with Jones’ slaying, and in fact is the victim of an unwarranted shooting that police are trying to justify by pursuing murder charges against an innocent man.
The contentious and diametrically opposed opinions of Davis’ guilt or innocence have spanned two separate trials. That series of courtroom showdowns now appears to be headed for a third trial after Judge Lynn Stewart Mays granted a defense motion for a new trial shortly after a jury found Davis guilty of second degree murder.
The motion argued that David Gutierrez, a witness who testified that Davis took credit for the slaying of a 22-year old Baltimore resident during several conversations in jail, was unreliable and failed to disclose his connection to a drug related murder in Texas. The motion was filed almost immediately after the verdict, and also argued it would have been impossible for the conversation to occur because Gutierrez and Davis were assigned to different cell blocks.
“They were not even in the same building they were never on the same tier, they could not have been in the same cell,” Davis’ defense attorney, Latoya Francis-Williams, told the AFRO.
Judge Mays found the argument compelling enough to make the rare move of granting a new trail shortly after a verdict.
In recent court filings, prosecutors argue that Gutierrez was not only a credible witness, but interacted with Davis while selling him alcohol from his cell during which the conversations he recounted occurred.
“Mr. Gutierrez never testified that he was housed on an ‘honor unit’ or that Defendant ‘frequented’ his housing tier. Instead, he testified that he had spoken to defendant ‘maybe four or five times,’” prosecutors wrote.
“The first meeting being in Mr. Gutierrez’s cell where defendant had gone to purchase alcohol. The witness never said, nor was he asked, where the subsequent conversations occurred.”
In the same motion, prosecutors pointed to Davis’ fingerprints on the gun and claimed cell phone tracking placed him in the vicinity of the parking lot where Jones was gunned down at the time the murder occurred.
Despite May’s decision, prosecutors say they remain committed to trying the case again, releasing a statement shortly after the ruling in which they vowed to move forward.
“We respect the judge’s decision and look forward to presenting the facts of this case again in the pursuit of justice for the family of Mr. Jones,” the statement said.
But Francis-Williams says prosecutors should not retry the case and in fact have an ethical duty to drop the charges in light of insufficient evidence.
“It is painfully clear they shot the wrong person,” she said.
Davis’ case has also been embraced by activists, who have protested the decision to charge him with murder and packed the courtroom during the most recent trial to show support.
The key to the new trial will be Gutierrez’s testimony, says Francis-Williams.
“He was absolutely critical to the case,” she said.
Indeed, Francis-Williams said 11 jurors voted to acquit Davis during the first trial, with just one holdout leading to a hung jury. In an unusual move, one of the jurors signed an affidavit that the evidence was insufficient to convict.
“They reached out to us,” she said, a fact she says makes her believe prosecutors should drop the case for good. “It’s particularly pitiful to haul this guy into court again.”