For second time, Keith Davis Jr. trial ends with a hung jury

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For the second time, the trial of Keith Davis Jr. in the shooting death of Pimlico Race Course security guard Kevin Jones has ended with a hung jury.

This was Davis’ third trial for the murder of Jones, who was shot 11 times on his way to work in the early morning of June 7, 2015.

And there was a trial before that, stemming from an incident later in the day on June 7, 2015, when Baltimore police officers fired more than 40 rounds into a mechanic’s garage in Woodmere, striking Davis three times. Officers alleged he robbed a hack cab driver and, after being chased into the garage, pointed a gun at them.

It was the first police-involved shooting following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. Davis was acquitted on 15 of 16 charges, with the only conviction coming on a count of firearm possession with a felony conviction.

From the start, Davis’ then-girlfriend, now-wife, Kelly Davis, and activists have claimed police chased the wrong man into the garage. And they have continued to raise awareness about the case as it has gone through numerous trials and multiple delays, and vigilantly challenged State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and her office over their handling of it.

Davis was convicted of Jones’ murder last October, but doubts about a jailhouse witness to whom Davis allegedly confessed prompted Judge Lynn Stewart Mays to order a retrial. The witness, David Gutierrez, was presented to the jury with a “sanitized version” of his criminal history that left out his role in a Texas gang murder where he disposed of a body by lighting it on fire.

Gutierrez appeared on the stand again last Thursday in the third trial, and faced tough questions about his motive for coming forward, which he claimed was purely altruistic. Tapes of phone calls to his family, however, indicated Gutierrez strategized about getting time off his sentence and other benefits, including an Xbox, in exchange for his testimony.

Natalie Finegar, Davis’ defense attorney, asked why Gutierrez was moved to a facility New Jersey in December, about two months after testifying in another unrelated case, to which he replied, “there are certain prisons that it wouldn’t be safe for me to be at.”

“You tried to strike a deal in this case and another,” Finegar said. “You were willing to testify in as many cases as it took to get home.”

Oddly, Gutierrez’s specific criminal actions were never discussed in this trial either, and a question about his gang affiliations was overruled. But the defense said it had to grapple with another omission from prosecutors in this case: video of Jones walking to work just before he was killed.

As Baltimore Fishbowl reported over the weekend, a previously undisclosed video emerged on Friday afternoon during the testimony of Det. Mark Veney, the lead investigator in Jones’ death. Footage shows a man pulling a mask over his head after Jones walks by.

Finegar said the man shown in the new video is “much bulkier” than Davis and has a different outfit on.

“In my review of that video, I am confident that is not my client,” Finegar told Baltimore Fishbowl on Saturday.

Assistant State’s Attorney Andrea Mason maintained she provided the video during the last trial to Davis’ previous representation. After not using the video as evidence in her own case, Mason then suggested the man in the footage was, in fact, Davis.

Much of the earlier testimony played out as it had in previous trials. Officer Lane Eskins testified a hack cab driver pulled up to the scene of a car accident on June 7, 2015, and said a guy was trying to rob him at gunpoint. Eskins said he then saw someone who he claims was Davis get out of the car with a gun, then chased him through alleys and into a small garage before backup arrived.

The man pointed a gun at police and hid behind a refrigerator, Eskins said. Officer Alfred Santiago then heard a shot he believed came from inside the garage. Police fired over 40 rounds and the man was hit three times, in the face and arm.

Assistant State’s Attorney Andrea Mason said that nine shell casings found at the scene of Jones’ murder fit the gun recovered on Davis in the garage. She also said that his hand print was found on the gun and that his blood was found on the gun’s magazine.

FBI analysts tracked signals from Davis’ phone to cell towers in the Park Heights area on the morning of the murder. His phone showed texts and calls to multiple people throughout the early morning, and he asked someone to pick him from the Park Heights area. At about 4 a.m., Kelly Davis texted him: “I wish you’d find a way inside. I know how you roll but I’m still nervous as hell.”

Unlike in Davis’ other trials, where a friend testified that she was with him the night and morning of the murder until 9 a.m. watching movies, the defense presented no alibi and Davis never took the stand himself.

Finegar called two witnesses, focusing instead on sowing inconsistencies within the testimony of officers and noting that only one of the four officers who fired at Davis, Eskins, testified, and neither of the two alleged witnesses in the garage were called.

It was later revealed that no shots were fired from inside the garage, according to Finegar, who emphasized the “anomalies that pile up” in the police’s sequence of events. Previously Eskins testified that the man had “shorter dreads or braids,” whereas Davis has close-cropped hair.

When Veney took the stand again on Monday, Finegar grilled him about his previous testimony that there was “nothing of value” in the videos recovered from convenience stores nearby.

“Have the videos changed?” asked Finegar.

“They may have a different meaning now,” Veney replied.

Finegar honed in on how Veney could have neglected to pursue a potential witness, shown in the video turning his head toward the crime scene and then running inside to alert the store clerk.

“It’s unfair to grab everyone in the area and assume they’re gonna be a witness,” Veney said.

He also defended his initial reading of the video.

“I didn’t see anyone shooting anybody or acting in a threatening manner,” Veney said.

With the jury still deadlocked after several days of deliberation, Judge Althea Handy declared a mistrial. Online court records indicate a new trial is scheduled for Nov. 5.

But in a statement, Melba E. Saunders, director of communications for the State’s Attorney’s Office, said, “We are committed to obtaining justice for the victim in this case so we will re-assess and make a determination about the next steps soon.”

Discussing the mistrial outside the courthouse, Finegar told Baltimore Fishbowl, “It’s a sad day for justice that we’re going to have yet another trial for Keith Davis.”  

She also reiterated her offense at the undisclosed video.

“I cannot believe that in the second to last witness of a murder trial, the state would reveal evidence that it’s had for three years,” she said. “I mean, I’m sorry, either they never viewed the videotape, and they lied about viewing the videotape, or they hid the videotape from us, or they’re disingenuous in their arguments to the jury–it’s one of those three things.”

Finegar said she isn’t done fighting.

“I’m not going to rest on my motion to dismiss at this point,” she said. “And I’m also going to pursue a bail for Mr. Davis. He shouldn’t have to sit in jail any longer on this.”

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