A 19-year-old Baltimore man has been acquitted by a jury of a 2015 murder in Pigtown after his defense attorneys charged that police and prosecutors didn't scrutinize a cooperating witness' claims.
Jurors took about an hour late last month to clear Wayne Demetrius Smith Jr. in the fatal shooting of 28-year-old Avery Kelly, which took place in the 1100 block of Cleveland St. on Oct. 12, 2015. The State's Attorney's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Smith's defense attorney Jesse Halvorsen, a former prosecutor who left the State's Attorney's Office in July, said the key witness was a 53-year-old man, Kevin Dudley, who was found with the murder weapon but said Smith had committed the shooting.
Prosecutors also pointed to surveillance camera footage of Smith running away from the scene, Halvorsen said.
Halvorsen said detectives had pressed Smith to confess, saying his DNA would be found on the gun and the victim's DNA would be found on Smith's clothing. He denied involvement. The only fingerprints later found on the gun belonged to Dudley.
Halvorsen said police found three cell phones in Dudley's possession, but didn't inspect them for text messages or pictures that might shed more light on the circumstances of the killing.
"In very serious cases, [State's Attorney] Marilyn Mosby needs to make sure that detectives continue the investigations after arrest," Halvorsen said. "They had 13 months from when they arrested Wayne Smith to test the cell phones, and they didn't do it."
Smith "sat in jail for 13 months when in the end there was not enough evidence to convict him," Halvorsen said.
Smith was found not guilty of first- and second-degree murder on Dec. 22.
Dudley pleaded guilty prior to the trial to a charge of accessory after the fact and a weapons charge, and will be sentenced on Jan. 20.