A former D.C. jail employee who had been charged with orchestrating the fatal shooting of her boyfriend was acquitted Thursday and ordered released from jail.
Carmelita Henderson bowed her head and wept softly as the jury foreman declared her not guilty of first-degree, premeditated murder in the fatal shooting of Levi Davis on Sept. 16, 2015.
During the two week-trial in D.C. Superior Court, prosecutors argued that Henderson, 52, orchestrated a hit on Davis as part of a plot fueled by jealousy and revenge. Henderson worked in the jail’s mailroom for years. In 2014, when Davis was an inmate, prosecutors said, Henderson noticed Davis was receiving love letters from other women. Prosecutors said Henderson intercepted the letters and that Davis found out and complained. Henderson was later fired.
Days after Davis was released from jail, prosecutors alleged Henderson conspired with two men to kill Davis. Just after 8 p.m. on that September evening, after Henderson picked up Davis in her SUV and drove him back to her apartment, witnesses told police that two masked men approached the passenger side, pulled open the door and fired at Davis. Davis, a father of eight, was shot 20 times.
The shooters — who witnesses and police officers at the scene saw fleeing — were never identified or arrested.
The jury deliberated for about three days. Earlier in the week, the jurors told Judge Todd E. Edelman that they could not reach a unanimous decision. The judge ordered them to continue deliberating. Then on Thursday, about four hours before they announced that they had a verdict, the jurors again said they were at an impasse. The judge gave them additional instructions and sent them back to deliberate.
It was a challenging case for prosecutors. Henderson’s attorney Mike Madden repeatedly told jurors that the government had failed to arrest the shooters and instead wrongly accused his client of being involved. Madden said Henderson was in the process of appealing her firing at the jail and had actually needed Davis to recant his claim against her.
A DNA expert testified that one of the casings found in Henderson’s SUV had her DNA on it. But Madden argued his client’s DNA merely transferred to the casing once it landed in her truck.
The main piece of evidence against Henderson was the account of a former boyfriend who testified that Henderson told him she had gotten Davis killed because he was cheating on her, had gotten her fired and had been physically abusive.
Wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, Marcus Hunter testified that he saw Henderson a few weeks after Davis was killed. He said he asked Henderson why he had not been able to reach her or see her and that she told him the police had her cellphone and SUV. Then, Hunter said, she told him something else.
“I got slim killed,” Hunter, 33, told the jury Henderson said.
But Madden argued that Hunter was not a credible witness and had fabricated the story in exchange for leniency from prosecutors in his own armed-robbery cases.
Sitting outside the courtroom, Davis’s family, including his mother and sister, who were present each day during the trial, expressed disbelief in the verdict.
“I just can’t believe this happened,” Davis’s mother said.