IM this article to a friend!

December 20, 2002

Deaf boy clears man in slaying

From: Maryville Daily Times, TN - 20 Dec 2002

by Lance Coleman
of The Daily Times Staff

A second-degree murder charge was dismissed against Steven Lynn Davis on Thursday after a 10-year-old deaf boy testified Davis stabbed Justin Finnelly in self-defense on Thanksgiving night.

The state showed a videotaped interview with a teenage girl who saw the fight.

The defense presented a fifth-grade student from Tennessee School for the Deaf who also witnessed the melee outside a Poplar Street apartment in Alcoa shortly before 9 p.m. on Nov. 28.

Finnelly, 18, of Knoxville, died at Blount Memorial Hospital as a result of several stab wounds. Davis, 20, of Maryville, was arrested on Nov. 29 at his home.

The teen witness said in the interview she knew the victim did not have a knife before the fight and that he was set up for a fight by another person who called Davis to the residence.

The girl said Finnelly disliked Davis because he had recently fought one of Finnelly's friends.

When Finnelly said he'd be mad if Davis came to the apartment, the girl said another boy left the room, apparently to phone Davis, and then walked out of the apartment with a girl.

A short time later, Davis entered the apartment and stared at Finnelly, the girl told detectives.

``He said, `I've got something for you outside,''' according to the girl's taped interview.

Once outside, Davis told Finnelly, ``I didn't come here to play. If I can't take you myself, my cousin will,'' the girl recounted in the interview.

The teen told detectives that Davis punched Finnelly; Finnelly got on top of Davis, then Davis punched Finnelly several times in the chest and knocked him onto a fence.

``He hit the fence real hard and was hanging there,'' she said on the video tape.

The girl told detectives she never saw Davis stab Finnelly, but she said it appeared he had a weapon in his pocket.

According to the girl's taped interview, the boy who apparently called Davis to the apartment returned after the fight was over and told her the fight wasn't supposed to start until he returned.

``He said nothing would have gotten this far,'' the girl told investigators.

Deaf boy testifies

The defense called a deaf boy, who is a cousin to Davis' wife. The 10-year-old rode with Davis' wife and Davis to the apartment the night of the fight.

The boy testified in court with the help of Knoxville interpreter Alan Hughes.

The 10-year-old said he watched Davis walk out of the apartment with Finnelly and another boy.

Finnelly had a knife in hand before the fight began, the boy testified.

The 10-year-old said Finnelly got on top of Davis and tried to stab him, but missed.

Davis grabbed the knife from Finnelly, the boy said.

``Did Steve stab the boy three times,'' defense attorney Joe Costner said, to which the boy replied, ``Yes, he was scared.''

When asked how he knew Davis was scared, the boy said Davis was afraid because the other boy was big.

The boy testified he saw Davis throw the knife away after the fight.

Reprimand by judge

Judge William Brewer reprimanded relatives of the 10-year-old after one spoke out and another laughed during the boy's testimony.

``Be quiet,'' he said. ``If you folks can't be quiet, you're going out.''

Upon hearing all the evidence, Brewer ruled.

``The testimony heard persuades the court the case should be dismissed at this time,'' Brewer said.

Finnelly's family left the courtroom immediately after Brewer announced his decision.

Davis was not immediately released because he still had to post a $500 bond for failure to report to a probation officer in connection with an evading arrest conviction.

Copyright © 2002 Horvitz Newspapers.