Margaret T. Burns, Baltimore City state's attorney spokeswoman,… (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun )
A Baltimore jury convicted teenager Lamont Davis on Thursday of attempted murder and handgun charges for the 2009 shootings that disabled Raven Wyatt, now 6 years old, and injured a teenager.
It was Davis' 18th birthday.
The case shocked the community both because of its disturbing content — children shooting children — and the circumstances under which the crime was committed.
Davis, who has a long juvenile arrest record, was under house arrest at the time of the shooting. He was participating in a new state Global Positioning System-based monitoring program that prosecutors said failed to keep him out of trouble.
The trial exposed flaws in the expensive system and raised questions about whether it is worth its multi-million-dollar cost to the state.
Davis showed no reaction as the jury foreman read the verdict, reached after two days of deliberation. But some of his supporters left the courtroom in tears, and his attorney vowed to seek a new trial, in part because of incorrect information given to jurors about the monitoring.
His sentencing is scheduled for June 15. He could receive a maximum of life in prison plus 61 years, according to the Baltimore state's attorney's office.
Jurors were not told of Davis' earlier record. He has been arrested at least 15 times since the age of 10 and had been in a juvenile detention program last year for assaulting and robbing a teenage girl. A judge released him on the home-monitoring system in late June.
About a week later, on July 2, a fistfight led to shots fired on a crowded Southwest Baltimore street. Raven was shot in the head. And 18-year-old Tradon "Reds" Hicks, who is now incarcerated on unrelated charges, was struck in an arm.
Police arrested Davis two days later. He was still wearing the ankle strap that communicated with the GPS tracking system whose reliability was at the center of the trial.
In 2008, Gov. Martin O'Malley set aside $1 million to implement the juvenile-monitoring program. The state recently approved paying $2.8 million more to continue using it through August 2013, according to records from the Board of Public Works, despite its supposed shortcomings.
During the trial, prosecutor Diana Smith chipped away at the program's reliability.
Testimony showed that the monitoring system sometimes gives incorrect location data, has dead zones, and can only track an offender's whereabouts if the person complies with rules to carry a cell phone-like device. If that component is left behind, the location tracker does not work.
Some of the most damaging information revealed at the trial about the GPs system was refuted Thursday by the Department of Juvenile Services. The prosecution and defense stipulated that Davis had violated the program's requirements at least 100 times in the few days he was in it.
But DJS spokesman Jay Cleary said Thursday that the statement was "completely untrue" and created from courtroom confusion. The figure of 100 referred to the number of entries in Davis' records, not violations, Cleary said.
Davis' attorney acknowledged the error Thursday night. He said he might raise the issue when he asks for a new trial.
Davis, who had to stay within about 150 feet of his home, was out of bounds — and in violation — nine times between June 24, when he was placed on the program, and the shooting on July 2, Cleary said. Most of those violations were checked out and cleared within minutes of their occurrence, he added.
Still, the Davis case led to an "intensive review" of the GPS system and several changes within the youth community supervision program, Cleary said.
DJS caseworkers are now required to follow up on all reported violations, and a "rapid response team" was created to fill the overnight gaps, when caseworkers are not available. The agency has also recently asked for an independent third party to review the GPS system to make sure it's worthwhile. It is in the early stages of that review now.
"We are committed to making sure this is a reliable system, and we want to make sure that we feel comfortable with it, so the public can gain some confidence," Cleary said. About 240 juveniles are under GPS monitoring statewide, nearly 110 of them in Baltimore.
Davis' attorney, assistant public defender Linwood Hedgepeth, submitted the GPS records during the trial to show that Davis was home at the time of the shooting, which Cleary verified Thursday.
But the verdict suggests jurors did not believe the data. They convicted Davis of second-degree attempted murder in the shooting of Raven and first-degree attempted murder in the shooting of Hicks, who was hit in the forearm.
The verdict goes "against the weight of the evidence," Hedgepeth said, contending that "something deeper" than sympathy was at work. To find Davis not guilty "would deliver a blow to the criminal justice system," he said in a brief interview after the verdict.