Where's the march for Baltimore's Keith Davis Jr?

On June 7th, 2015, two young black men were shot in Baltimore. Kevin Jones, a Pimlico security guard, was fatally shot 11 times. Several hours later, in the same neighborhood, Keith Davis Jr. was shot at 44 times by Baltimore City police officers, and hit three times. It was the first police-involved shooting in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray eight weeks earlier.

Mr. Davis was immediately charged on 16 different counts, and only one of them stuck; a technicality: Mr. Davis was lying unconscious in proximity to a firearm, which due to a low level drug charge from several years before, required a five-year minimum mandatory sentence. After failing to convict Mr. Davis of anything more serious, the Baltimore Poilice Department a year later miraculously connected the gun found near Mr. Davis to the murder of Kevin Jones. Ever since then, Mr. Davis has been going in and out of trials, the latest of which ended last month in a hung jury after prosecutors failed to disclose what Mr. Davis’ attorney argues was exculpatory evidence.

I was able to observe part of Mr. Davis’ first trial a year ago, which also ended in mistrial, and all of the most recent one — his third; a judge ordered that trial be held because information about a witness was kept secret during a second trial.

But while I and others were closely following the Keith Davis Jr. case, another crisis unfolded on a national level. Images of children being separated from their parents at the border spurred national outrage, putting President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy under widespread scrutiny. Many, myself included, believe that the president’s policies are causing disastrous human rights violations, and marches have been planned and held across the country in response.

At first these headlines felt like a separate issues to me — there was the national crisis and then the local one. But the more that I engaged in separate conversations about child detention centers and Keith Davis Jr., the more I realized I was talking about the same thing.

Families belong together. Innocent human beings do not belong in cages.

Based on the national temperature surrounding President Trump’s zero tolerance policies, it seems that most of us can agree on this.

So where is the march for Keith Davis Jr.?

I have seen the evidence. I have met Mr. Davis’ wife, Kelly, as well as their four children. I can say with confidence that Keith Davis Jr. is guilty of nothing more than surviving a police shooting in Baltimore. What is happening to him is exactly what would have happened to Freddie Gray, had he survived.

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby failed to deliver justice for Mr. Gray. In fact, it seems her office has been more vigorous in its pursuit of putting this father behind bars then they ever were in prosecuting the officers who killed Freddie Gray.

After receiving widespread backlash for his child-detention centers, President Trump signed an executive order to end the separation of families trying to enter the U.S. illegally at the southern border; instead, parents and children are now to be detained together. He reportedly has no specific plans regarding the reunification of families that have already been separated, but seeks praise for his actions nonetheless.

State’s Attorney Mosby has similarly received strong backlash for what appears to be a malicious prosecution of Keith Davis Jr., and so is taking time to “reassess” whether she is going to try him a fourth time. How long will this take? So long as she is “reassessing,” Mr. Davis sits — caged — in Central Booking, having already served his time on the initial gun charge, according to his lawyer. And just as President Trump should not receive any credit for ending his own deplorable policy, State’s Attorney Mosby should not receive any credit for “reassessing” whether to prosecute Mr. Davis a fourth time. The damage has already been done.

I cannot muster one ounce of respect for somebody who “earns” their paycheck by using taxpayer money to break families apart. We have no shortage of people who fall under this category, but there are leaders in these initiatives. On the national level, it’s Donald J. Trump. On the local level it’s Marilyn J. Mosby. Seeking a better future for yourself and your family is not a good enough reason to be sent to a detention center. Surviving a police-involved shooting is not a good enough reason to be sent to prison.

I believe that families belong together, and that human beings do not belong in cages. It’s for these reasons that I believe we need to end Trump’s zero tolerance policies, and it’s for the same reasons that I believe we need to free Keith Davis Jr.

Sheridan Merrick is a student at The University of the Arts and a Baltimore resident; her email is smerrick@uarts.edu.

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