Third trial opens for Keith Davis Jr. in fatal shooting of Pimlico security guard in 2015

Keith Davis Jr., who is charged with killing a Pimlico Race Course security guard more than three years ago, returned to court Tuesday where he is being tried a third time for the crime.

Prosecutors said Davis, 26, of Columbia, fatally shot Kevin Jones as he was walking to his job at the track on June 7, 2015. Hours after the killing, prosecutors said, Davis ran from a robbery and was chased by police, who shot him in a nearby garage. Almost a year later, police said the gun they recovered from where Davis was shot matched the gun used to kill Jones.

Davis’ first murder trial in May 2017 ended in a mistrial after jurors deadlocked. He was found guilty of second-degree murder at his second trial last October, but a judge reversed the conviction because information about a key witness was not disclosed.

Lawyers indicated during a motions hearing Tuesday that they will spar over the testimony of that witness, a jailhouse informant who claimed the Davis had confessed to the murder, what prosecutors previously called a “neighborhood beef.”

Davis has maintained his innocence, saying the gun was planted on him. His attorney, Natalie Finegar, said Davis’ arrest was an attempt to shift the focus away from the officer-involved shooting of Davis, which occurred just months after the unrest in the city following the death of Freddie Gray from injuries suffered in police custody in April.

“Two men were gunned down that day,” Finegar told jurors during opening statements Tuesday.

But in the first officer-involved shooting since the protests over Gray’s death, Finegar said the Police Department “virtually abandoned” the investigation of the shooting by the officers.

Assistant State’s Attorney Andrea Mason said officers identified Davis as the suspect from a robbery, chasing and shooting at him after they thought Davis fired at them. She said the officers “saw [Davis] with the gun in hand,” just hours after Jones was killed.

But Finegar said evidence showed that Davis never fired a shot. She added that the state did not have any eyewitnesses to Jones’ shooting and police never provided a motive or any link between her client and Jones.

Davis appeared in court Tuesday in a button-down shirt and blue sweater. More than a dozen supporters who have lobbied the state’s attorney’s office to drop the charges watched the proceedings with Davis’ wife, Kelly Holsey Davis.

Several family members of Jones also were in attendance Tuesday. Some of them got emotional as a responding officer described finding Jones’ body in Pimlico’s parking lot.

Prosecutors are again expected to call David Gutierrez, who had previously testified that he met Davis through his then-cell mate in Jessup, who sold homemade alcohol. But following Davis’ conviction at his second trial, his attorney, Latoya Francis-Williams, filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that key information about Gutierrez had been withheld.

Circuit Judge Lynn Stewart Mays reversed the conviction in December because she said there was a significant possibility that undisclosed information about Gutierrez’s role in a Texas gang murder could have changed the outcome of the trial.

Finegar indicated during the motions hearing Tuesday that she planned to question Gutierrez about recorded jail phone calls he made, which she said would raise doubt about his credibility.

During early testimony Tuesday, prosecutors called several officers who fired at Davis. Officer Lane Eskins said he was at the scene of an accident in the Northwest District when a car approached and he saw Davis get out of the passenger side carrying a gun and start running. The officer followed him to a garage, where Eskins and several other officers fired at Davis.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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