Hennepin County prosecutors have dismissed attempted murder charges against a newly freed Minneapolis man two weeks after a judge ordered he receive a new trial based on ineffective representation by his attorneys.
Javon Davis, 32, who was serving a 28-year sentence, has since been freed.
“I’m ecstatic and so thankful to the whole Innocence Project [of Minnesota],” Davis said of the organization of attorneys who work to exonerate the wrongly convicted. “I am so happy they believed in me. They saved my life.”
Davis, also known in court records as James Lamar Davis, was convicted of shooting two men outside Target Field in the early morning hours of April 12, 2014. Hennepin District Judge Paul Scoggin threw out the conviction earlier this month, issuing a scathing assessment of the defense put on by Davis’ trial attorney, Michael Padden. Had Davis received effective representation, Scoggin wrote, “it is difficult to imagine the case thus submitted to the jury leading to guilty verdicts.” He also found that Sara Euteneuer of the Minnesota state appellate defender’s office had failed to address key mistakes Padden made during the trial. Had she done so, Scoggin wrote, the Minnesota Court of Appeals would have likely vacated the conviction.
In a one-sentence legal filing on Wednesday, Assistant County Attorney Sean Cahill withdrew the charges “in the interest of justice.” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman declined to comment.
Davis maintained his innocence throughout the trial and during the course of the five years he served at the Stillwater prison. On the suggestion of a friend he contacted the Innocence Project of Minnesota.
“I was innocent,” Davis said. “I didn’t have knowledge of the crime. I was not involved in it, planning, executing it. I had nothing to do with it.”
The project sent Brandy Hough, then a student at the University of Minnesota Law School, to interview him. He recalled telling her, “I am Innocence Project innocent.”
Julie Jonas, legal director of the Innocence Project of Minnesota, said they had never heard it expressed quite like that before. Prisoners sometimes write that their trial was unfair, or that they were not the central participant in the crime, but rarely were they as blunt as Davis.
Davis was accused of being one of three men wearing hooded sweatshirts who shot and wounded Kibbie Walker and Cortez Blakemore as they left Target Field after completing a work shift. Walker first told police he could not identify Davis. But two days later, after police pressed Walker, suggesting he should not protect “a baby killer,” Walker concurred that Davis was one of the assailants. However, on the witness stand, Walker denied Davis was involved.
Padden, Davis’ attorney, did not object to the jury seeing the video where Walker had identified Davis, even though it included a number of police statements that would have prejudiced the jury against Davis. Padden should have objected, and most if not all of that video would have been ruled inadmissible, Judge Scoggin wrote in his memorandum on the case.
Davis credited the legal work of Jonas and two other Innocence Project lawyers, James Mayer and Jon Hopeman, as well as the project staff, some of whom met him at the jail last week when he was released. They joined him at his house for a pizza party with his girlfriend and six children.
“They are so happy, they can’t believe it,” Davis said.