Robbery charges dismissed; appeal eyed

Robbery charges dismissed; appeal eyed

August 10th, 2012 by Kate Harrison Belz in News

Ricky Davis is seen in this file photo.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

Hamilton County prosecutors plan to appeal the dismissal of the case against a man accused in a string of North Chattanooga armed robberies.

On Thursday, charges against Ricky Davis, 26, were officially dismissed because Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman ruled earlier this year that the evidence was gathered unlawfully.

After leaving the courtroom, Davis said the dismissal has allowed him to turn over a new leaf. He had been in jail from the summer of 2010 until March, when Steelman threw out the evidence against him.

"I'm ready to leave all this behind me and move on," said Davis, who denies the latest robbery allegations and said he now has a job lined up at a recycling facility.

Before his 2010 arrest, Davis was in state prison from 2006 to 2010 after pleading guilty to aggravated burglaries that took place in the same part of town. During his most recent incarceration, Davis said, he started reading books and writing in jail.

"Every time I've been arrested, it's been for something I have done," he said. "But to be arrested for something you didn't do and just sitting in jail -- it makes you think that life is short, anything can happen. Instead of being around on the streets like I used to, I want to be around family, get a job and do that."

Police said they arrested Davis in 2010 after they spotted him armed and rattling the door of a residence in North Chattanooga, according to newspaper archives. After a search of Davis' home, police said they found several items reported stolen during a robbery the previous week in the neighborhood.

At that point, Davis was slapped with charges of first-degree attempted murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, theft and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony in connection with a series of home robberies in North Chattanooga.

Prosecutor Neal Pinkston said police gathered evidence linking Davis to the crimes by placing a GPS tracking device on the car he used, which allowed authorities to trace the vehicle along routes where robberies had occurred.

But Steelman later suppressed all evidence from the tracking of Davis' car and the search of his house, saying police should have obtained a warrant before using the GPS.

The judge cited a 2011 case, USA v. Jones, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an up-to-date warrant is required for any GPS tracking.

"Based on all that, the state could not proceed any further with the case," said Pinkston.

Since March, the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office has been evaluating ways to revisit Steelman's ruling. Pinkston said he plans to send a letter to the state's attorney general this week, asking for a review of the order throwing out the evidence and seeking an appeal.

At the time the police used the tracker on the car, Pinkston said, there was no binding precedent in Tennessee that ruled against such action.

Davis' attorney, Chris Dixon, said Steelman's decision upheld the importance of due process.

"[Davis] has been very patient throughout this whole ordeal, and we are just glad to see this all resolved," said Dixon, who added that none of the robbery victims had initially been able to identify Davis as the perpetrator of the robberies.