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Witness transportation issues plagued assault trial

October 07, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

o Jury: Three former correctional officers not guilty in assault

HAGERSTOWN -- Problems surrounding the transportation of a witness at the center of this week's second-degree assault case against three former correctional officers hampered the trial in Washington County Circuit Court.

The trial recessed early Tuesday afternoon because the state's final witness, former Roxbury Correctional Institution inmate Kenneth Davis, was not transported to Hagerstown.

Assistant Maryland Attorney General Jason Abbott told jurors Monday they would hear from Davis. And Washington County Circuit Judge M. Kenneth Long told jurors Tuesday afternoon that Davis would be the state's next witness.

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By the time court reconvened at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Davis still had not been transported from Connecticut, where he is being incarcerated.

Davis was to be flown to Maryland to testify, Abbott told Long, but the weather in Connecticut was severe and aviation command would not clear state police for takeoff from Maryland, Abbott said.

Abbott called it an "act of Mother Nature" and said the weather was supposed to clear. Abbott said troopers could travel to Connecticut later Wednesday and have Davis in Hagerstown by 8:30 a.m. Thursday. He asked for a continuance of the trial, which the defense opposed.

Abbott explained that Davis feared for his safety and could not be housed in local facilities. During the last trial at which Davis testified, he was housed at the detention center in Frederick, but those arrangements were not available for this trial, Abbott said.

Long denied the continuance, saying he didn't think it was fair to wait for Davis, especially since there was no guarantee the weather would clear and allow the plane to depart Wednesday. Other options were available for transport, including a vehicle, Long said. Davis also could have been held in a cell at the Maryland State Police barracks in Hagerstown, Long said.

The Connecticut Department of Correction has no record of a Kenneth Davis with the same birth date as the one given for Davis in Maryland court records.

Inmates self-report their information and it's possible an inmate "self-reported alternative information," a spokeswoman for the department said.

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