BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – On November 22, Devon Little was freed from his wrongful conviction and life sentence of imprisonment.
There was a retrial of Mr Little’s case, and he was found innocent by a second jury on November 22, then he was set free.
There was some evidence used in the retrial that was brought to light by a report from Trace and BuzzFeed News. The report included missteps that lead detectives had made in Devon Little’s initial case.
“I cried, and I kept crying,” BuzzFeed News reported Mr Little saying when he was found innocent by the jury.
Devon’s mother Janice Moses reportedly said she was “too scared to wait for the verdict inside the courtroom,” so she sat down on a bench just outside of the courtroom door.
“I was numb. I couldn’t move. When I sat there, I was crying. The jury came out and, a juror gave me a high five, and she said, ‘Everything is okay’,” Janice Moses said according to BuzzFeed News.
The investigation that was published by Trace and BuzzFeed News back in January highlighted how police department detectives throughout the United States oftentimes fail to efficiently investigate shootings, partly because of staff being constrained.
The January Report revealed a series of nine shootings that happened in Baltimore between June 2015 and February 2017 all had connections by a shared suspect or victim. Mr Little himself was a gun violence victim himself in two of those shootings but was still arrested in a third shooting case.
Two of those nine cases had been closed by the Baltimore Police Department. However, the first of those closed cases was reopened following the report by Trace and BuzzFeed News that discovered police identified a dead man as the culprit without having any credible evidence.
Mr. Little was accused and convicted of killing a 26-year-old father of two children named Levon Stokes in the second of those murder cases that has now been overturned.
There was no physical evidence linking Mr. Little to the shooting, and state prosecutors only relied on testimony from Stokes’ mother, friend, and sister to convict him.
There was new evidence presented by Mr Little’s defense team at the retrial, which included some of the information revealed by Trace and BuzzFeed’s investigative report.
The breakthroughs included details that the case file’s ballistic evidence obtained by Trace/BuzzFeed revealed the weapon used in the murder had been used in two other shootings that occurred after Mr Little had been imprisoned.
The lead detective Miss-stepped in the murder case and didn’t investigate additional suspects, such as several other men who were believed to have been involved in a shooting three months earlier that was nearly fatal for Mr Levon Stokes. The lead detective also failed to test DNA on a live bullet round authorities recovered from the scene of the murder.
A public defender named Sarah Gottlieb discovered that Tonia Cox, who is Mr. Stokes’ mother, first told officers that there were four men involved in the shooting, but then she testified and said only Mr. Little walked out of the alleyway and shot her son. Additionally, surveillance video was obtained by Gottlieb which shows that Stokes’ friend wasn’t at the street corner where she claimed to be, and did not actually witness the murder.
BuzzFeed News reports Sarah Gottlieb in her statement as saying, “What happened to Stokes’ family was a tragedy. It shouldn’t happen to anyone. But Mr. Little was not the person that was responsible for that. He didn’t do it, it was innocent.
There were so many ways to know that by looking at the video evidence and the physical evidence. It’s our position, still, that the person who killed Levon Stokes is still out in Baltimore right now.”
According to BuzzFeed News, Mr. Little spent the last three days reuniting with his mother, 8-year-old daughter, and other members of his family, Mr. Little is quoted as saying, “I’m lost for words right now.”