Keith Davis Jr. is Free

The cover of the January 14 issue of the Baltimore Sun illustrated two different realities.

Above the fold, a jubilant Keith Davis Jr. embraces a supporter. The day before, new Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan Bates announced he was dropping charges against Davis, who had been locked up since 2015, when he was shot at by police and then apprehended in connection with the murder of security guard Kevin Jones at Pimlico Race Course. 

Former Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby was in the process of taking Keith to trial for a fifth time when she lost her bid for reelection last year. Through every trial, Keith’ wife, Kelly Davis, fought for his freedom. Absent help from anyone currently in power in Baltimore, Kelly had to build her own advocacy support system from scratch. Along with a group of supporters who called themselves Team Keith, she passed out fliers, rented billboards, and protested on behalf of her husband.

It can be argued that Kelly’s support for Bates, and Team Keith’s work highlighting the problems with Mosby, helped Bates win the office.

“There were times during this fight that I couldn’t see my way through this horrible ordeal,” Kelly said in a statement on social media posted the morning of her husband’s release.

Below the fold on the Sun’s front page was a different story. Kevin Jones’ grandmother, Earlene Neales, sat solemnly with her hands clasped. “The system failed Kevin,” she told the newspaper. 

The Davis’ win is remarkable — this country’s justice system isn’t designed with the intention of reuniting families, especially Black ones. But we are still left with a system that can’t give one family a win without breaking another family’s hearts. 

Supporters of the Davis family have created a GoFundMe to help Keith get back on his feet. 

No Charges for Baltimore Officers in Donnell Rochester’s Death

One day before he announced the release of Keith Davis Jr., Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bates announced that his office would not be pursuing charges against two Baltimore City Police Officers who shot and killed 18-year-old Donnell Rochester in February of 2022. He also released the results of an investigation into the incident. 

Officers were attempting to arrest Rochester because of an open warrant regarding an alleged carjacking. Rochester eluded the cops, but they spotted him again, on foot near his car. When he saw them, according to police, he got back in his vehicle. Officer Connor Murray approached Rochester’s car on foot. Rochester accelerated, and Murray fired three shots into the front of the car. He fell to the side and fired a fourth shot which went through Rochester’s arm and into his chest. Officer Robert Mauri also shot at Rochester. Rochester got out of the car with his hands raised and fell to his knees, blood coming from his mouth as he said, “I can’t breathe.” 

The shooting was captured on body-worn cameras and shows both officers violating departmental policy, which trains them not to step in the way of moving cars in a manner that might precipitate the use of force and prohibits firing into moving vehicles. 

Particularly questionable is the fourth and final shot fired by Murray, after he had already fallen out of the way of the vehicle. 

Rochester’s family and friends have been protesting and marching to draw attention to his death — and have argued that police waited too long to administer aid. 

“We would say that this is a bad start to the new State’s Attorney ‘enforcing all laws,’ except there aren’t actually laws against police shooting someone when the officer(s) ‘fears for their life,’” progressive legal group Baltimore Action Legal Team tweeted after Bates’ announcement.

Wes Moore Becomes Maryland’s first Black Governor

On January 18, with pomp, circumstance, and an appearance by Oprah, Wes Moore was sworn in as Maryland’s governor. He is this state’s first Black governor and one of only a handful of Black men ever to hold the position of governor in the United States. 

Moore is a young man with a beautiful family. His campaign slogan, “no one left behind,” was an attractive alternative to the violent rhetoric we’ve seen in politics, an environment encouraged by an increasingly extreme Republican party. It’s not hard to think of him as Maryland’s own version of the second coming of Barack Obama (in fact, whispers about a presidential run for Moore have already begun).

For many people, especially many Black Americans hopeful for a country that would treat them with more equity than it had their ancestors, the Obama years felt ideal. The current reality, with glaring economic inequalities exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic and the rise of extreme hate, feels grittier and much more grounded in reality. In many ways, this country is back to square one. Moore has a lot of work ahead of him. 

So far, he has spent the beginning days of his term outlining his fiscal priorities, including increased funding for access to abortion care training, climate change initiatives, and education.