The man was tried 4 times for murder, released after the charges were dropped

Baltimore’s new chief prosecutor on Friday dropped all charges against a black man who was tried four times for the same murder, freeing him from prison and ending a controversial case that has repeatedly raised questions about the conduct of police and prosecutors.

Keith Davis Jr. was charged with killing Pimlico Raceway security guard Kevin Jones in 2015 after police said his gun matched shell casings from the shooting scene. Before arresting Davis, officers shot him several times, leaving him critically wounded. He survived and has maintained his innocence ever since.

The Baltimore murder case is closed
Keith Davis Jr. is questioned after being released from custody Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, in Baltimore after prosecutors dropped all charges against him. Davis had been tried for the same murder four times and was awaiting a potential fifth trial when newly elected State’s Attorney Ivan Bates announced his decision to dismiss the case. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

Jerry Jackson/AP


Newly elected Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bateswho took office on Jan. 3, announced Friday that the charges were being dropped.

“Today’s dismissal stems from my predecessor’s prosecutorial misconduct in its pursuit of a conviction at all costs,” Bates said in a news release. “I have a duty to ensure justice for all, not only for the victims, but also for the accused.”

During the election campaign, Bates promised to review the case, which his predecessor, Marilyn Mosby, repeatedly took to court. Mosby was defeated in the Democratic primary last year when he faced federal perjury charges.

When contacted Friday, Mosby told The Associated Press that the case “has always been about the pursuit of justice for Kevin Jones and his family.” She refused to comment further.

Jones’ grandmother, Earlene Niles, said she felt blindsided and devastated by the news.

“Our family is devastated,” she told the AP by phone. “Kevin is getting no justice – none.”

She accused Bates of using the case for political gain, saying she was skeptical police would ever identify another suspect now that Davis is at large.

Davis was the first person killed by Baltimore police since The death of Freddie Gray in 2015a black man critically wounded by police whose case sparked protests and civil unrest in Maryland’s largest city amid calls for police reform.

A recent confluence of factors helped Davis regain his freedom after seven years behind bars, including growing activist support and Bates’ 2022 election. Bates, then an attorney, defeated Mosby in the Democratic primary, securing his election in November in the heavily Democratic city.

Davis asked for privacy and did not appear in public on Friday, although he was photographed smiling broadly in a car after his release. He celebrated with his supporters, including his wife, Kelly Davis, who has led a years-long grassroots movement to clear his name.

“I hope people understand that we watched wrongful conviction in real time — and we didn’t look away,” she told The Associated Press. “Keith survived the bullets because that was not the end of his story. It should have been much bigger.”

She called the case “an indictment of the entire system.”

“Kate is not an anomaly,” Kelly Davis added, saying many other defendants with credible claims of innocence remain behind bars. She said he’s home now, but “we can’t get back those years that were stolen from us.”

Attorneys for the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, which represented Keith Davis throughout, said Friday’s ruling helps restore confidence in Baltimore’s justice system.

Maryland Public Defender Natasha Dartig said Mosby’s handling of the case “defies any concept of justice.”

Davis, 31, faced a fourth murder trial in 2019 when a jury found him guilty of second-degree murder, a finding that was later overturned on appeal in 2021. Two previous trials ended in reversals. A third trial resulted in a conviction for second-degree murder, which was also overturned.

Davis was awaiting a potential fifth trial at the time of his release Friday.

In 2021, after his most recent conviction was overturned, prosecutors filed additional charges against Davis, accusing him of attempted murder in a stabbing nearly a year earlier while he was behind bars. When those charges were filed, a Baltimore judge found that the prosecution alleged a “presumption of vindictiveness.” The same judge also charged Mosby with contempt of court after finding she intentionally violated a gag order by commenting on the high-profile case on Instagram.

The attempted murder case was also dismissed on Friday.

Jones was shot and killed on June 7, 2015, at Pimlico Speedway in northeast Baltimore.

Hours after the shooting, a Baltimore police officer was flagged down by an unlicensed taxi driver in a nearby neighborhood who said someone had tried to rob him at gunpoint. Police identified Davis as a suspect, chased him through the streets and cornered him in a mechanic’s garage. The police then fired at least 33 rounds at Davis, hitting him three times, including once in the face.

Authorities said Davis placed the gun on top of a refrigerator he was hiding behind in the garage. But Davis said the gun was planted on him after the police shooting.

Davis originally stood trial in 2016 for armed robbery. A jury found him not guilty of all charges except illegal possession of a handgun. About a week later, prosecutors charged him with manslaughter in the Pimlico shooting, citing ballistics tests.

In his statement Friday, Bates did not find Davis innocent. Because he was commenting on the case on the campaign trail, Bates said, he asked one of his deputies to conduct a formal review.

“It is clear that a flagrant disregard for professional responsibility and the law pervades every effort to prosecute Mr. Davis,” Deputy State’s Attorney Thomas Donnelly said in a statement.

Baltimore activist DeRay McKesson, who celebrated Friday with Kelly Davis and others, said he was hopeful after Bates won the primary, but “it ain’t real until it’s real.”

He said many of Davis’ fans were excited to finally meet him in person.

“Today is a reminder that when you organize, you win,” he told the AP. – It was not easy, but we managed.

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