Activist DeRay Mckesson escalates defense of Keith Davis Jr. by posting courtroom audio ahead of Baltimore man’s fifth murder trial

Escalating a campaign to defend Keith Davis Jr., activist DeRay Mckesson began posting videos Monday with excerpts of courtroom testimony to pressure State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby to drop the murder charges against the Baltimore man.

With Davis’ fifth trial on the same murder charges — and sixth criminal trial stemming from the same day in 2015 — expected in May, Mckesson’s nonprofit Campaign Zero published online the first of what he said will be a series of videos bucking Maryland rules on broadcasting trial testimony. The first includes snippets of witnesses being questioned by defense attorneys in three of Davis’ trials and captions with conclusions about their statements.


It also shows Mosby telling a person, who the video describes as a student, “at some point that case will be closed and then you can evaluate the evidence for yourself.”

Mosby, who was at the time responding a question about the integrity of Davis’ prosecution, has defended her stance by saying she’s pursuing justice for Kevin Jones, a 22-year-old security guard who prosecutors and police say Davis killed.


Mckesson told The Baltimore Sun his organization is taking Mosby up on her challenge to review the facts, and will share its findings in a series of videos. The videos will highlight the most alarming of what Mckesson and his organization identified as nearly 200 inconsistencies in the state’s case, as also depicted on its website

Activist DeRay Mckesson points to a transcript during a news conference to demand the charges against Keith Davis, Jr. be dropped before a sixth murder trial scheduled for next year.  July 21, 2021

“The public has a right to hear what has happened across these trials,” Mckesson said. “I am so confident in our belief that these charges should be dropped that we are willing to do whatever we can to help the public see that Marilyn Mosby is wrong here — she is just wrong in this case.”

Mckesson’s publication of the recordings from the trials flouts Maryland’s ban on broadcasting recording from state criminal trials, a law that has faced multiple challenges about its constitutionality.

Mckesson said he obtained the recording legally from the courts. Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing him already in an unrelated lawsuit from Louisiana that’s before the U.S. Supreme Court, have pledged to support him if he faces backlash for the video.

Mosby’s office declined to comment.

A spokeswoman for the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, which is tasked with enforcing the state ban of broadcasting trial recordings, did not respond to a request for comment.

Jones was gunned down on his way to work at Pimlico Race Course. Around 4:45 a.m. June 7, 2015, someone shot Jones 11 times, including gunshots to the head and face. He died in the parking lot of the Northwest Baltimore horse track.

Police and prosecutors maintain Davis was the gunman.


Davis, his defense attorneys and his supporters, however, say he is innocent. His defense has raised the theory that police planted a gun on him after firing 30 to 40 rounds at him in an auto garage hours after Jones’ killing — the first Baltimore police shooting amidst the fallout from the death of Freddie Gray from injuries in city police custody two months earlier.

Davis’ criminal defense attorney, Deborah Katz Levi, the director of special litigation for the public defender’s office, declined to comment about the video.

Five hours after Jones’ slaying, police officers chased Davis, whom they suspected of attempting an armed robbery, into an auto garage and opened fire. He was struck three times and wounded. Police said they thought Davis was armed, and that they recovered a handgun from inside the garage.

At trial on charges of attempted robbery with a deadly weapon, a jury acquitted Davis of every count except for being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm. Murder charges came after the gun police recovered was linked to casings found at the scene of Jones’ fatal shooting earlier that day.

He was tried twice in 2017. His first trial resulted in a hung jury; the second led to a guilty plea, which was overturned when a judge found prosecutors withheld information about the credibility of a key witness. A third trial resulted in another hung jury. The latest, in 2019, led to a conviction that was overturned — again.

Davis was 23 at the time of Jones’ shooting; he’s 30 now.


Mckesson’s first video calls attention to the testimony of a Baltimore Police firearms examiner, James Wagster, who said he “eyeballed” shell casings to identify the murder weapon. Wagster testified at Davis’ attempted robbery trial and first murder trial.

The video also plays an excerpt of the testimony of Virginia Sladko, a Baltimore Police DNA analyst. In the portion shown of her testimony in Davis’ second murder trial, Sladko said no item tested had both Davis’ and Jones’ DNA on it.

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Trial after trial, the case has become a political flashpoint. Davis’ supporters have become some of Mosby’s most outspoken critics, accusing her of making his case personal.

David Jaros, faculty director of the Center for Criminal Justice Reform at University of Baltimore School of Law, said the publicity around the case will make it harder to trust the outcome. It also increases pressure on Mosby.

”It at least has created the specter of the idea that this has become personal and that is problematic from the standpoint of maintaining the legitimacy of the system and that justice is being handed out equally,” Jaros said.


In Davis’ case, the repeated prosecutions are complicated by the fact that his charges arose from a police shooting during the aftermath of Gray’s death and the repeated mistrials and overturned convictions.

“Keith Davis is a case unlike any other,” Jaros said.

For the record

An earlier version of this story misstated how rare it is that an American would face as many prosecutions as Davis has for the same incident. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.