A Baltimore County judge has thrown out the case against a man who had been charged in a deadly shooting outside a bowling alley in Timonium, ruling that prosecutors violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial.

David Davis was charged with first-degree murder and related offenses in the killing of Anthony Cooper Jr., which happened in the parking lot of the Bowlero on York Road near Greenmeadow Drive on Oct. 15, 2021. Cooper was 48.

The Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office was seeking a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for Davis, 34, of Baltimore.

But in issuing his ruling on Feb. 21, Circuit Judge Jan Marshall Alexander said there had been a substantial delay in the case. He noted that a witness who told detectives that Davis did not pull the trigger has since died.

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Though prosecutors suggested that Davis’ attorney could play recordings of two police interviews of the witness at trial, Alexander determined that would not solve the issue.

“That’s about as strong as exculpatory evidence as there can be,” Alexander said. “Whether it’s believable or not’s a whole other issue.”

Under Maryland law, people have a right to stand trial within 180 days of their first appearance in circuit court or the entry of appearance of their attorney. That’s commonly referred to as the Hicks rule.

People have an independent right to a speedy trial under the Maryland and U.S. constitutions. The Maryland Supreme Court has found that a delay of one year and 14 days is enough to trigger an analysis.

Judges consider and weigh four factors that the U.S. Supreme Court set out in a 1972 opinion. Those considerations are the length of the delay, reason for the delay, assertion of the right to a speedy trial and prejudice to the defendant.

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Davis spent more than two years and three months incarcerated while awaiting trial. He’s now free.

Two other men, Craig Whitaker Jr. and Terell Jefferson, were charged in the case.

On Oct. 15, 2021, Baltimore County Police were called after 11 p.m. to the bowling alley for a shooting and found two men who had been hurt.

Cooper had been shot in the head and was pronounced dead at the scene. Meanwhile, Tyrone Groom was knocked unconscious and stomped on, police asserted, after he tried to wrestle a handgun away from Whitaker. The weapon went off two times.

Prosecutors alleged that Cooper chased after Davis, who then fired and hit him one time in the face.

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Whitaker, 35, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty on Feb. 15 to first-degree assault for a sentence of 15 years in prison, suspending all but the time he had already spent incarcerated, plus three years’ probation, according to court records.

Jefferson, 34, of Baltimore, was facing charges of attempted first-degree murder, first- and second-degree assault and use of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence, court records show, and the state on Feb. 21 placed his case on the inactive docket. Prosecutors reported that the only witness who put him at the scene had died.

At this point, prosecutors do not intend to appeal the judge’s decision to throw out the case against Davis, Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger said.

Shellenberger noted how the witness who would have provided favorable testimony to Davis had died. Prosecutors, he said, were not sure that they would have been able to prove their case.

“Most of the witnesses were uncooperative, and we had a difficult time staying in touch with them,” Shellenberger said.

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Davis’ attorney, Andrew Alperstein, had filed a motion to dismiss the case for violation of his client’s constitutional right to a speedy trial.

Alperstein argued at a motions hearing that the state was responsible for several postponements of the trial. That’s including one continuance that prosecutors requested so they could map cellphone location information.

But Alperstein brought up how police had the underlying data before arresting his client. Davis, he said, told investigators that he was there but denied committing the homicide.

“The question is, ‘Who shot Mr. Cooper?’” Alperstein said. “That’s the whole issue in the case.”

Prosecutors, he said, charged his client with first-degree murder and stated their intention to seek life in prison without the possibility of parole. Alperstein said “the stakes are as high as they can get in our criminal justice system.”

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The witness who told investigators that Davis was not the shooter, Lawrence Jones, died of a drug overdose on Nov. 20, 2022. That’s four days after Davis’ trial had been set to begin at one point.

Alperstein said he did not believe prosecutors acted in a malicious way.

“In this case, more important than convicting somebody of murder, is making sure that we do it fairly,” Alperstein said. “And I don’t know how one could possibly rebut the fact that a witness has died that was exculpatory.”

“We have no ability to bring him back from the dead, which is the only way that I could bring his testimony into the court and do it a fair way,” he added.

In an interview, Alperstein said his client is a truck driver who recently celebrated his wedding anniversary. He’s doing well.

The evidence seemed clear that Davis was not the shooter, Alperstein said. He credited the judge for issuing a fair ruling in a difficult case.

“Mr. Davis maintained the entire time that he was innocent of these charges,” Alperstein said. “And sometimes, the right thing happens for different reasons.”

The exterior of the Baltimore County Courts Building in Towson is pictured in this photo from June 16, 2022. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Assistant State’s Attorney David Lemanski had urged the judge to deny the motion to dismiss.

Prosecutors, he said, did request a postponement to map the cellphone location information. But Lemanski said that’s “something that is important in this case and any case, when you can put individuals together before, during and after a crime.”

Lemanski asserted that the state had to ask for the last continuance, stating that was essentially out of its control.

Davis and Whitaker were set to stand trial together. But Whitaker’s trial was pushed back because his attorney, Stephen Tully, had to withdraw from the case due to a conflict of interest.

Lemanski suggested that Alperstein could instead play recordings of two police interviews of Jones at trial.

“Obviously, dismissal of the case is the most serious remedy or result that could happen,” Lemanski said. “I don’t believe that under the analysis that it is the proper remedy.”

Cooper’s family could not be reached. A woman who said she was his ex-wife, Stephanie Linnen, described him as a friendly and good person, adding that he loved to garden.

Davis, through his attorney, declined to be interviewed.

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