ANNAPOLIS -- The Court of Special Appeals overturned yesterday the rape conviction of a Washington man because it took prosecutors in Prince George's County more than seven years after his indictment to bring him to trial.
And all the while, the defendant, William Delanie Davidson, was a prisoner of the District of Columbia correctional system. His case had fallen through the cracks, according to court documents.
Maryland's second highest court called the delay "inexcusable," agreed that Davidson's constitutional right to a speedy trial had been violated and ordered the charges dismissed. But that doesn't mean Davidson will be on the streets soon. He's serving 65 years-to-life for an unrelated murder in Washington.
"This is one time they do the technically correct thing without endangering the community," said Edward Sobesky, the public defender who represented Davidson at the rape trial.
Mr. Sobesky had argued before Davidson's trial that the charges should be dropped because of the delay, but he was rebuffed by Circuit Judge G. H. Hovey Johnson.
Davidson was indicted in December 1982 on charges that two months earlier he had approached a woman and two men who were sitting in a car in Washington, ordered the men out of the car at gunpoint, then drove the woman to Maryland, where he allegedly raped her. A bench warrant was issued for his arrest.
The Prince George's Sheriff's Department, aware that Davidson was in jail in Washington awaiting trial in the murder case, twice sent detainers to police there but never received replies and apparently never pursued the case.
In July 1984, Davidson was sentenced in the Washington murder case and shipped off to prison at Lorton, Va. Later, he was transferred to federal prisons in Spokane, Wash., and Lewisburg, Pa., because of overcrowding at Lorton.
Finally, in July 1989, authorities at Lewisburg notified the Prince George's sheriff that they had Davidson. He was tried and
convicted in Prince George's in April 1990.
Part of the delay in bringing the rape case to trial could be attributed to the pending murder case in Washington, the court conceded. But most of it -- five years -- stemmed from the "failure" of Prince George's authorities to "implement their usual monitoring practices."
"The inescapable conclusion is that [Davidson] was denied his right to a speedy trial," Judge John J. Garrity concluded for the panel.