The prosecution was forced to make a largely circumstantial case against Mr. Davis, who they said fired the gun. None of Mr. Davis’s DNA was found in Mr. Reaves’s home, where the shooting took place. There were no fingerprints on the stolen 9-millimeter handgun that was used in the murder. And there were no witnesses who saw Mr. Davis shoot Mr. Reaves.
What’s more, extensive delays can erode any case, as memories falter and witnesses disappear or die. In this case, two key witnesses for the prosecution, including Mr. McCloud, changed their stories.
They stunned the courtroom by testifying that they had lied years ago to authorities about the case.
One, Larry Thompson, appeared on Thursday in an orange jumpsuit, handcuffs and leg chains. He is serving a 20-year sentence for an unrelated crime. After briefly testifying, he abruptly refused to continue, saying he feared for his life.
Mr. Thompson was a child at the time of Mr. Reaves’s death, and was supposed to help bolster the prosecution’s theory that the men had planned to rob Mr. Reaves from the beginning.
In the 2009 trial of Mr. Stacey, Mr. Thompson testified that he saw three men wrestling with Mr. Reaves, and that they pulled him back into the apartment after he tried to flee. He also testified that he heard Mr. Reaves yelling, “You are killing me! You are killing me!” after he heard the gunshots.
But this week, he denied that account.
“That was a lie,” Mr. Thompson testified on Thursday, adding that he saw only two men fighting with Mr. Reaves. “I don’t want to commit perjury. I’ve been doing it for so long.”
He added: “I was scared for my life, and I am scared for my life today, your Honor. Just take me back to prison. I am not testifying.”
But it was the second main witness, Mr. McCloud, who stood to do the most damage to the prosecution’s case.
In the hours after the shooting, Mr. McCloud gave the police conflicting accounts of what happened when Mr. Reaves was killed, ultimately suggesting that Mr. Davis had stormed into Mr. Reaves’s home and started shooting.
But on Thursday, Mr. McCloud changed his story again, telling the jury that Mr. Davis had waited in the car while he went in to buy drugs. That was also Mr. Davis’s account, according to his lawyers.
After the shooting, Mr. McCloud told Frank Meredith, a Dothan police officer, that he had just stepped into Mr. Reaves’s apartment when he heard Mr. Davis yell an order to get down and felt a pain in the back of his neck before losing consciousness. Mr. McCloud had been shot by a bullet that passed through him and struck Mr. Reaves.
Mr. McCloud testified Thursday that he implicated Mr. Davis then because Mr. Meredith threatened and coerced him, using a racial slur. He added that the police officer had pushed the idea that Mr. Davis did the shooting.
“He was putting words in my mouth,” Mr. McCloud testified. “So, to get out of there, I just went along with what he said.”
On the stand, Mr. Meredith firmly denied Mr. McCloud’s account.
A distant relative of Mr. Davis’s, who owned the gun used in the shooting, testified that she had noticed it missing from under her bedroom mattress about three weeks before the shooting, when she hosted a cookout that Mr. Davis attended. She said that he had entered her bedroom at one point, to use the bathroom there.
The defense called no witnesses. “Not one piece of forensic evidence connects Kharon Davis with being in that apartment,” one of Mr. Davis’s lawyers, Thomas M. Goggans, said, referring to Mr. Reaves’s home. “There are unanswered questions and doubts throughout.”
Prosecutors had initially sought the death penalty in Mr. Davis’s case, but in January a new district attorney took office who had a conflict of interest: He had previously represented one of the other two men charged in the murder.
The state attorney general’s office took over the case and dropped pursuit of the death penalty.
Mr. Davis was still tried for capital murder, but found guilty of a lesser charge, felony murder, which carries a sentence of 20 years to life. Circuit Court Judge Kevin Moulton had instructed the jury to consider the lesser charge if they could not reach unanimity about capital murder.
Malcolm Reaves, one of Mr. Reaves’s four brothers, expressed relief that there was finally a verdict. “The whole case, the 10 years, it all took a heavy toll on our family,” he said. “I’m happy today because my brother finally got justice. My mama says she can sleep at night now.”
Chrycynthia Davis, Mr. Davis’s mother, said after the verdict that she was angry. “The state did not make their case and they tried to coerce Kevin and make him lie,” she said, referring to Mr. McCloud. “This is not justice. They railroaded my son.”
One of Mr. Davis’s lawyers, Dustin Fowler, said Mr. Davis planned to appeal. Sentencing was scheduled for Oct. 17.
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