Judge agrees to new trial in fatal Dupont Circle hit-and-run

A woman found guilty of negligent homicide in a fatal hit-and-run accident last year can be retried on more serious charges — including one prosecutors acknowledge that they forgot to file the first time around, a judge ruled Monday.

In June, a D.C. Superior Court jury found Jorida Davidson guilty of negligent homicide, driving while under the influence and leaving the scene after a collision in connection with the death of Kiela M. Ryan, 24, of Howard County. Ryan was fatally struck by Davidson’s Lexus SUV in Dupont Circle early Oct 7, 2010.

But the jury couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict on the most serious charge, voluntary manslaughter. On Monday, Judge Lynn Leibovitz said prosecutors could retry Davidson on that charge and an additional charge of involuntary manslaughter.

The ruling came the day before Davidson, 31, of Chevy Chase is scheduled to be sentenced on the other charges. She could face as much as five years in prison and could be deported to Albania, her home country.

If found guilty on the charges of voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, Davidson could face as much as 30 more years in prison.

The debate over whether to allow a retrial was contentious. Prosecutors said they want to correct a mistake they made before the first trial.

“We should have put involuntary manslaughter in the indictment,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael C. Liebman told Leibovitz in an October hearing. “We missed that.”

J. Michael Hannon, Davidson’s attorney, called Liebman “vindictive” during that hearing, arguing that prosecutors filed the additional charge because Ryan’s family was angered by the verdict and the possibility of a relatively short sentence.

Hannon said the additional charges violated his client’s constitutional right against double jeopardy, which bars a person from being tried again on the same, or similar, charges after an acquittal or conviction.

After Davidson’s trial, Liebman said he did not initially wish to refile the charges and tried to convince Ryan’s family against pushing him to do so.

“I suggested we not retry the case, but the family had very strong feelings about it,” he said. Liebman said he then relayed the family’s feelings to his supervisors, who ultimately decided to retry the case.

U.S. attorney’s office spokesman Bill Miller declined to discuss details of the decision to seek a retrial.

In her ruling, Leibovitz noted that because neither Hannon nor Liebman had requested a mistrial after the jury said it could not reach a unanimous verdict on the manslaughter charge, Davidson could be retried without violating her rights.

Leibovitz also ruled that there was no sign of “vindictiveness” in the prosecutor’s decision to add the additional charge.

Keith Alexander covers crime, specifically D.C. Superior Court cases for The Washington Post. He has covered dozens of crime stories from Banita Jacks, the Washington woman charged with killing her four daughters, to the murder trial of slain federal intern Chandra Levy.


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