Kalamazoo — A man who admits he strangled a woman in Kalamazoo has successfully challenged his murder conviction after arguing that his rights were violated when jurors saw him shackled at trial.
A federal appeals panel said Ervine Davenport is entitled to a new trial, 12 years after his conviction in Kalamazoo County.
The attorney general’s office asked the full 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to set the decision aside and hear the case again. But the request was rejected Tuesday, 8-7, in 28 pages of agreement and dissent.
There was no dispute at trial that Davenport choked Annette White in a car in 2007 after they had used alcohol and crack cocaine. He insisted he acted in self-defense after she attacked him with a box cutter, but the jury convicted him of first-degree murder.
In the courtroom, Davenport was ordered to have one hand restrained, as well as shackles around his waist and ankles. There was a curtain around the defense table to hide the restraints, but many jurors saw them or learned about them.
Jurors later said the shackles didn’t influence their deliberations. But the appeals court, in a 2-1 opinion, said the shackles were prejudicial and spoiled the trial, despite the evidence against Davenport.
“The shackles branded Davenport as having a violent nature in a case where the crucial point of contention was whether he engaged in deliberate and premeditated murder,” said judges Jane Branstetter Stranch and R. Guy Cole Jr.
Davenport, 55, who is serving a life sentence, remains in prison while the attorney general’s office decides its next move. It could ask the U.S. Supreme Court to look at the case.