Attorneys representing Keith Davis Jr., the first person shot by Baltimore police officers following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody who was later charged with the early-morning murder of a Pimlico security guard, are calling on murder charges against Davis to be dropped following a Civilian Review Board report that questions the credibility of officers who testified against him.
The independent board that evaluates police misconduct found that four officers involved with apprehending Davis used excessive force, and said there were discrepancies in the testimony given by those officers to internal affairs and on the stand.
The board recommended officers Lane Eskins and Alfred Santiago be fired, and that officers Catherine Filippou and Israel Lopez be suspended for 30 days.
“All of this adds up to one simple fact, that Mr. Davis is innocent of these charges,” Natalie Finegar, the former public defender who is now representing Davis in criminal court, said at a press conference this afternoon.
In addition to calling on the charges to be dismissed, LaToya Francis-Williams, who has represented Davis in previous criminal proceedings, said she is pursuing civil action against the State’s Attorney’s Office.
This is the most recent development in what has been a long legal saga for Davis, who has always maintained his innocence, saying that police who chased him on June 7, 2015, in connection with an armed carjacking got the wrong man.
Officers eventually fired 44 shots into a nearby auto garage in Northwest Baltimore as Davis took cover behind a refrigerator inside, striking him three times. Police said he was pointing a gun at them during the gunfire.
Davis received 16 charges in all, including assault on the police officers and armed robbery. During his February 2016 trial, officers stated they never lost sight of Davis during the pursuit and testified that his prints were found on a gun found in the garage.
But the victim of the carjacking took a long look at Davis during the trial and said, “To my recollection, that don’t look like him to me.” And Eskins, the officer who first chased a man from the scene of the carjacking, initially told police interviewers he was following a man with braids, which Davis didn’t have.
Supporters have suggested that officers planted the gun on Davis to cover up wrongdoing.
Davis was acquitted on 15 of 16 counts, with the lone conviction coming on a count of possession of a firearm with a felony conviction. He was later sentenced to five years in prison without parole.
Days after the end of the first trial, Davis was charged with the murder of a 22-year-old Pimlico Race Course security guard, Kevin Jones. Then-Commissioner Kevin Davis said ballistics records matched the gun with shells found in the racetrack parking lot and that phone records examined by the FBI placed Davis in the area.
That case went to trial in May 2017 and ended with a hung jury. A second trial was held last October, ending with a jury convicting Davis of second-degree murder and use of a firearm in a violent crime.
But a judge later granted a new trial when questions arose about a jailhouse witness called in the second murder trial who said Davis confessed to the killing.
Finegar said the new report from the Civilian Review Board could also wipe out Davis’ handgun conviction from the first trial related to the 2015 incident, either through a new trial or a writ of actual innocence. She said she will be seeking the documents the Civilian Review Board used for its findings, through subpoena and public information act, before the murder case goes to trial a third time.
Even with the recent agreement between City Solicitor Andre Davis and State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby that officers must disclose allegations in their internal affairs files before testifying in a criminal case, Finegar said it’s business as usual when it comes to obtaining such records.
“It should have been delivered to my office on a silver platter, as far as I’m concerned,” she said.
Davis’ wife, Kelly Holsey Davis, told reporters she has been fighting for three years and will continue to do so.
“My husband did nothing wrong that day but survive,” she said.
The Civilian Review Board’s recommendations are sent to the commissioner, but it doesn’t have much power beyond that.
Baltimore Police Department spokesperson T.J. Smith said Commissioner Darryl De Sousa received the report today and the department is reviewing it.
This post has been updated.