Keith Davis Jr. has been charged with attempted murder stemming from a prison stabbing nearly a year ago, a state correctional spokesman said Friday, adding the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office reviewed the matter and decided to prosecute him now.
The decision comes about two weeks after a Baltimore Circuit Court judge tossed out Davis’ conviction for the 2015 murder of Kevin Jones and granted him a fifth trial. Davis and his supporters have maintained his innocence through a series of prosecutions, which resulted in mistrials and overturned convictions.
Davis, 29, now faces attempted murder, assault and weapons charges.
The jailhouse fight happened in June 2020, but Davis wasn’t charged until Friday. In an email, the spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services said prosecutors decided to bring charges now. The department declined to answer questions.
Zy Richardson, a spokeswoman for Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, said correctional officers investigated the stabbing, presented the evidence to prosecutors and submitted the charging documents under oath — as is routine.
“Our office reviewed the evidence and the statement of probable cause for legal sufficiency,” Richardson said.
She said prosecutors were waiting on the decision from the courts that overturned Davis’ latest conviction before proceeding with new charges.
“He was sentenced to 50 years and is a public safety threat, so once his sentence was disturbed we reviewed the DPSCS allegations for legal sufficiency and moved forward,” she said.
The charges come as tensions have escalated between Mosby and a vocal crowd of Davis’ supporters. His supporters, led by his wife, Kelly Davis, have held rallies, protest marches and hounded Mosby with calls to “Free Keith Davis Jr.!”
Last week, Mosby flipped off an unmasked man who confronted her at a waterfront bar with his cellphone recording and called out, “Free Keith Davis Jr.!”
His supporters questioned the timing of the charges.
“It is interesting that the state charged this one year after it is alleged to have happened, right after Mr. Davis won a new trial, and right after Ms. Mosby gave a Keith Davis supporter the finger and then people questioned whether she lied about it,” said Davis’ attorney, Deborah Katz Levi, the director of special litigation for the public defender’s office. “Mr. Davis is innocent of these charges and he will be vindicated.”
Two weeks ago, a Baltimore judge granted Davis a new trial — likely setting up a fifth murder trial in the controversial, politically-charged case. Davis had been serving a 50-year prison term for second-degree murder. Jurors convicted him in 2019 of fatally shooting Pimlico security guard Jones in June 2015. He has maintained his innocence.
Meanwhile, Mosby has pledged to continue to seek justice for Jones’ family.
In charging documents from the stabbing last year, Detective Sgt. Roger Balderston wrote that Davis attacked inmate Kenneth O’Neil and stabbed him in the head, neck and back inside a cell at the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center in Baltimore. O’Neil required sutures and staples for his wounds.
The officer wrote that the attack happened in the early morning while Davis was serving breakfast on the tier.
“Upon entering the cell, the Def. [defendant] threw the cups of juice into the victim’s face and began to attack him with a knife-like weapon,” Balderston wrote.
Another correctional officer saw the men fighting, closed the cell door and called for help. Davis suffered small cuts to his hands.
“The assault took place in front of witnesses and facility surveillance system video corroborated the witness statements,” Balderston wrote.
He offered no motive for the attack. Balderston wrote that correctional officers did not find a weapon.
Kelly Davis said the jailhouse fight came about because her husband was targeted by the other inmate in retribution for Jones’ death.
She, too, questioned the timing of the charges.
“This is clearly retaliation,” she said. “This is another instance of Marilyn Mosby being too personally involved in this case. Yet again she is using her power and position to bury Keith under the legal system. We will fight this.”
During his fourth trial for the murder of Jones, a jury convicted Davis and he was sent to prison.
In his first trial, the jury deadlocked over a verdict. A new jury convicted him in his second trial, but the conviction was overturned. His third trial brought another hung jury. Then in summer of 2019, he was tried a fourth time and convicted.
Prosecutors offered evidence that his clothing matched that worn by the killer in surveillance footage, that cellphone records placed him in the area around the time of the killing, and that police found him with the murder weapon. They offered no motive.
His defense attorney, Levi, argued at trial that officers planted the gun to cover their tracks after shooting him. She presented a defense theory that police chased Davis, mistakenly thought he was armed and opened fire. They shot at him 30 times, hitting him in his face, neck and arm.
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Baltimore Circuit Judge Sylvester Cox handed down the 50-year prison term, the maximum penalty.
Yet another reversal came this month when Cox granted Davis a new trial. His order followed a ruling from Maryland’s highest court that found defense attorneys had been unfairly barred from asking prospective jurors certain questions about impartiality and a defendant’s right not to testify.
Armed with the appeals court ruling, defense attorneys successfully argued for new trials in a series of murder cases, including for Davis.
His case has become a rallying cry for social justice activists in Baltimore who have called for Mosby to stop prosecuting Davis.
Mosby has said his supporters have gone too far, protesting outside her home, putting flyers on her neighbor’s car and interrupting her at community events. After flipping off the man last week, she said: “I responded the way any normal woman would to a threatening strange man.”
Supporters of Davis and his defense attorney seized on the video footage and the initial denial of the gesture by Mosby’s office, saying the case has become her personal vendetta.
Mosby has not said if she has any plan to drop the case.