WSAZ Investigates | Man jailed 5 years without trial

Earl Davis III has been sitting behind bars for more than five years since being charged with murder in 2018.
Published: Sep. 7, 2023 at 7:00 PM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - It’s a problem WSAZ investigated last year in Justice Delayed -- Cabell County defendants sitting in jail for years awaiting trial.

The station found one of those defendants, Earl Davis III, now has been sitting behind bars for more than five years since being charged with murder in 2018. His trial date, which was set for next week, just pushed back again -- to December.

“I’m going to set this trial for Tuesday, December 12,” Cabell Circuit Judge Chris Chiles announced in court Tuesday. “If something comes up to where we need to address that again and possibly reset it again ... we’ll take that up at that time.”

WSAZ NewsChannel 3′s Curtis Johnson spoke with Davis’ mother, Porcshia Davis, about the setbacks.

“Five years of delay, how do you put that into words?” he asked.

“Unbelievable,” she replied. “I cannot believe that this is America and anybody would sit in a jail, not convicted of anything yet and be left there for five years, and delay after delay, and excuse after excuse, and no trial. It’s beyond belief that this can happen in our little town.”

Earl Davis III stands accused of shooting Ronald Adams on June 28, 2018. He suffered injuries leading to his death.

Davis was arrested days later.

Investigators, at the time, linked the incident, which happened on state Route 2, to marijuana and vandalism.

“Porcshia, do you believe your son’s innocent?” Johnson asked.

“What I can tell you for sure, without a shadow of a doubt, is that my son would never hurt somebody intentionally,” Porcshia Davis replied. “That’s what I know.”

“Do you think he was involved in an accident that night?” Johnson asked.

“I don’t know,” she replied. “I’m waiting for the people that are supposed to be doing their jobs to do their jobs and figure this out. You know, that’s that’s the job of a jury and a judge and lawyers.

“What I’m trying to do is figure out why my son has been in jail for five years without a trial.”

And she’s not alone.

Years of delay also is affecting the victim’s family.

The victim’s mother attended Tuesday’s hearing, yet chose not to speak on camera as she believes doing so could jeopardize the case.

Friends of Ronald Adams sent a written statement.

“Ron was such a special person,” the statement reads. “He brought love & joy to our lives & was taken from us, suddenly. To live through 5 years of court dates has been tough, reliving the loss of Ron over & over again. Knowing that no matter the outcome, we will never truly win because we will never get to see him again. But, we will continue to come regardless of time because Ron deserves justice.

“We demand justice for him, and we see no justice in sympathizing with the accused & how much life they are missing when Ron will never be able to experience life past the age of 22.”

For both families, this month’s delay is just the latest in five years of waiting.

Johnson searched the case file and found delays linked to both the prosecutor’s office and the defense -- from scheduling conflicts to plea negotiations, unavailable witnesses, COVID and a Supreme Court appeal -- all among reasons early on.

More recently, a new defense attorney, a new judge, a special prosecutor and allegations of ethical misconduct.

As the latest delay now pushes the case into December, Special Prosecutor Steve Bragg says the delay could linger even further into next year.

“The state is asking for a March trial date,” he asked the court early in Tuesday’s hearing. “I understand that is about six months out, but given the foregoing reasons I believe that is a reasonable amount of time.”

WSAZ has found long delays are not new in Cabell County.

Last year, Johnson searched court files and jail booking records, and recently went through updated records.

In both years, Johnson found Cabell County leading the state with the most inmates behind bars for more than a year awaiting trial.

Last year, Johnson found four inmates having waited more than two years. Court records show of those four, all but Davis’ case has now been resolved.

But this year, Davis is joined by seven other defendants -- a total of eight -- who have now been waiting longer than two years for their trial.

Trial court rules by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals state felony cases should be resolved within eight months of indictment.

Records from this July -- the most recent month available -- showing nearly 70 percent of cases resolved during that month, and more than 70 percent of pending cases have lingered far beyond the eight-month standard.

Both of those percentages higher than what we found a year ago.

Davis’ mother saying its an issue that could affect anyone.

“Why should a mom, a dad, a grandparent, a son or daughter, care about your son’s case?” Johnson asked.

“This could be their dad, or their mom, or their brother, or their son, or their uncle,” she said. “I’m telling you now, I’ve never been in trouble a day in my life, Curtis, and I always thought that if I did have troubles along the way, that the the system would do what it’s supposed to do.

“This system has let my son and our family down tremendously, and it’s not just us. It’s letting down all the citizens of Cabell County.”

While the special prosecutor -- appointed just last month -- says the delays were necessary and the case should go forward, defense attorney David Perry -- who has been on the case for just over a year of the five -- argues Earl’s case should be dismissed for the lack of a speedy trial.

Davis’ attorney pins blame on a system that he says discourages prompt resolution of legal issues at the Cabell County Courthouse.

Cabell County Prosecutor Corky Hammers, whose office oversaw the case for five years, has offered no response.

The defense’s speedy trial motion -- seeking to dismiss the case -- will be taken up in court next week.