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Baltimore man who stood trial 4 times in killing is freed after charges are dismissed

Baltimore, Maryland’s newly elected top prosecutor dismissed all charges against a Black man who stood trial four times in a 2015 killing despite his repeated claims that he was innocent and set up by police.

Keith Davis Jr. walked free Friday after Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan J. Bates announced his decision.

In a news release, Bates said he requested Deputy State’s Attorney Thomas Donnelly to review the case involving the killing of Kevin Jones, a security guard who was fatally shot on June 7, 2015, at the Pimlico Race Course track. Police accused Davis of committing the crime and claimed his gun matched the casings found at the crime scene.

Keith Davis Jr. hugs supporter Peggy Amaker as he arrives at a gathering following his release from custody in Baltimore on Jan. 13, 2023.Jerry Jackson / The Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Bates said Donnelly reviewed all “pertinent information, analyzed the law, and concluded that we should not continue this prosecution.”

He went on to say that the dismissal of charges against Davis was “the result of a thorough review of his prosecution thus far, as well as thoughtful consideration of what it means to seek justice in Baltimore City.”

Davis was initially charged in 2015 for an alleged robbery. Hours after Jones was shot, an unlicensed cab driver flagged down police and said someone had tried to rob him at gunpoint. Police identified Davis as the suspect and chased him into a mechanic’s garage.

Supporters of Davis said he was “cornered by police in a West Baltimore garage” and shot at 44 times, according to the website Free Keith Davis Jr. He was struck three times and survived, the site said.

Brandon Walker of the Ujima People’s Progress Party speaks during a news conference in support of Keith Davis Jr.Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images file

Police said Davis had placed a gun on top of a refrigerator in the garage. Davis denied this and accused officers of planting the weapon after they shot him.

Davis went on trial in 2016 for armed robbery and was found not guilty of all charges except illegal possession of a handgun.

About a week later, prosecutors charged Davis in the killing of Jones, citing ballistics testing. The website denied Davis’ involvement in the killing and said the gun police claimed he used “was never fired.”

The first murder trial in 2017 ended in a hung jury, according to the website. The second trial, also in 2017, returned a guilty verdict that was later overturned at sentencing by a judge after the judge learned that prosecutors introduced their key witness, “a professional jailhouse informant,” without informing the court about the witness’ background, the website stated.

Davis’ third murder trial in 2018 also ended in a hung jury, and his fourth in 2020 ended in a guilty verdict that was again overturned “due to the judge refusing to allow the appropriate and required pre-trial questioning requested by the defense,” according to the website.

Bates in his news release accused former State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who repeatedly brought Davis’ case to trial, of “prosecutorial missteps” in “her pursuit of a conviction at all costs.”

“I fully recognize the pain and anguish that repeated unsuccessful prosecutions have caused the victim’s family, and I truly sympathize with them. Still, as State’s Attorney, I have a duty to ensure justice for all, not just the victim but also the accused,” he said.

Mosby was defeated in a Democratic primary last year while facing federal perjury charges. She did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment but told The Associated Press that the case “has always been about the pursuit of justice for Kevin Jones and his family.”

Mosby declined to comment further.

Jones’ grandmother, Earlene Neals, told The Associated Press that she was heartbroken and blindsided by Bates’ decision.

“Our family is destroyed,” she said. “Kevin is getting no justice whatsoever — none.”

The Maryland Office of the Public Defender, which represented Davis, said it was “extremely grateful” that Davis was freed.

“After four trials for a crime he did not commit, all guilty verdicts were overturned for police, prosecutor, and even court error,” said Deborah Katz Levi, the office’s director of special litigation, and counsel for Davis.

“We are grateful that the State’s Attorney’s Office understood that this case was replete with so many past mistakes and evidentiary issues, which all amounted to a denial of Mr. Davis’s right to Due Process and a loss of confidence in the criminal justice system.”

The office said Davis has asked for privacy “as he enjoys his long-awaited reunion with his wife and children in private.”

The Baltimore Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.

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