The attorney for a man awaiting trial 10 years on murder charges is seeking to have his client’s case thrown out completely, claiming the government failed to act expediently to resolve an apparent conflict of interest that led to unfair delays in his right to a speedy trial.
A hearing on the motion to dismiss the charges against Kharon Torchec Davis is set for Tuesday morning at the Houston County Courthouse.
Although Davis has been awaiting trial for 10 years, the motion to dismiss focuses on the first four years Davis was awaiting trial for the murder of Pete Reaves.
Dothan police arrested Davis, along with two other men, on June 6, 2007, in the shooting death of Reaves at his Rolling Hills apartment. Since then, the trial has been delayed repeatedly.
According to the motion filed by attorney Thomas Goggans of Montgomery, Davis’ right to a fair and speedy trial was damaged because the court failed to act expediently on an apparent conflict of interest with Davis’ first attorney, Ben Meredith.
Ben Meredith represented Davis at a preliminary hearing on Davis’ murder charges July 9, 2007. During the preliminary hearing, Ben Meredith’s son Frank, a former Dothan police investigator, testified during the hearing as well. It wasn’t until November of 2011 that the court concluded a conflict of interest existed with Ben Meredith representing Davis while his son testified for the prosecution.
“Courts have an obligation to investigate into a possible conflict of interest of defense counsel when the potential for conflict is brought to the courts’ attention,” Goggans argues in his motion to dismiss filed in April.
However, the first apparent mention in court of a potential conflict came Oct. 26, 2011, during a hearing. Then-District Attorney Doug Valeska brought the issue to the court’s attention. Ben Meredith said he had no issues with his son testifying for the prosecution.
“He’s my son outside the courtroom,” Ben Meredith said during the 2011 hearing. “Inside the courtroom, he is just another witness, and I will eat him up.”
The judge later asked Davis if he had a problem with the potential conflict of interest.
“I ask you, do you have issue with Mr. Meredith representing you and going forward in this matter knowing that there is the potential for that conflict?” Circuit Judge Kevin Moulton asked, addressing Davis.
“Not at all, no sir,” Davis responded.
Several delays in the case occurred over the next six years, some of which resulted from Davis seeking new attorneys. Each subsequent attorney was then allowed time to get caught up on the case. Goggans, however, argued that Davis should not be penalized for the delays he caused.
“The reasons for the extended period of time after the removal of Ben Meredith as counsel (do) not weigh in Davis’ favor. But, the fact remains that there had already been over four years of essentially down time,” Goggans wrote.
Goggans further argued the initial delay in the case is enough to conclude Davis has been prejudiced.
“Excessive delay presumptively compromises in ways that cannot, and, therefore, need not, be proved. Hence, the defendant is entitled to dismissal if he establishes presumptive prejudice and the government does not rebut it,” Goggans wrote. “It took over four years for the conflict to be addressed and resolved. This delay should not fall upon Davis but upon the government.”
Prosecutors have already said they do not plan to seek the death penalty in the case.
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