Did Ed Davis Manipulate a Police Investigation?
Ed Davis, at the time a young detective just starting his career, had two cases that seemed to be related come across his desk in November of 1983; a sexual assault and a rape that occurred on consecutive nights in the same area of town. Eager to impress, he went to the scene of the crimes just a few hours after receiving the reports, armed with a rough description of the perpetrator, hoping for a lead or a clue. Shortly after his arrival, he spotted a man walking out of a nearby liquor store who matched the description he had been given.
What luck! That man was Dennis Maher, and Davis stopped and searched him right then and there. Maher had a small bag of marijuana on him, and Davis seized the opportunity to arrest him. Dennis Maher spent the next several months caught up in a system that would ultimately fail him. You can read a summary about what happened that day, or you can listen to Maher tell the story himself. Maher ultimately spent 19 years of his life in prison on trumped up charges while the real perpetrators got away (DNA evidence ultimately showed that the cases were not actually related).
Maher was denied access to the evidence that would exonerate him for several of those years, based on claims that it was lost or had been destroyed. While there were a number of factors leading to his wrongful imprisonment, Ed Davis and the Lowell Police Department were key players in his conviction. There is evidence that Davis may have manipulated the photo array identification by influencing the victims to pick out Maher as their attacker. These two separate victims identified the same innocent man who is clearly not the one who raped and assaulted them; when they were unable to pick out Maher previously. Davis is the one who made Maher a suspect in the first place. There may have been a some doubt about what Davis did in 1983, but armed with the knowledge of his lying throughout the years, it’s hard to believe that this happened by mistake. Ed Davis was so eager to get a conviction, any conviction, that he would do anything to make it happen.
Maher was freed due to the hard work and dedication of lawyers at The Innocence Project. The project is not affiliated with this page in any way, but they are doing great work and the organization is worth checking out.
Watch Maher tell his story in this video!
If you don’t want to watch the whole video, the important parts are as follows:
The story actually starts around 17:30. Before that, it is introductory information that isn’t necessarily pertinent to Maher’s story.
At 23:50, Maher talks about the alibi he had for one of the crimes he was charged for. This alibi was rock solid, but completely ignored by Ed Davis as he put his case together.
At 24:30, Maher says Davis told him to “just admit to” the crimes. This is a pattern that Davis would engage in throughout his career, where he decides who is guilty and then tries to bully them into saying it was their fault.
The first hint that Davis acted improperly is at 26:30. This case is extremely old, and when Maher sued the City of Lowell, they settled out of court. Usually, settlement out of court includes some sort of agreement to not assign blame out of court. Thus, any wrongdoing on Davis’ part requires some sleuthing to pin down.
At 31:40, Davis and the detective from the city of Ayer put up a witness who remembers impossible details. It later turned out that this witness lied on the stand in order to place Maher at the scene of the crime in Lowell and it is likely that one of the detectives on the case out him up to it.
At 40:15, they mention that a witness lied and facts were withheld in the conviction of Maher.
The Lowell Sun published a story that details some of the reasons for Maher’s lawsuit, and the accusations of police wrongdoing, including the fact that the information about Maher’s alibi was changed in the police paperwork to make it useless.
Maher ultimately settled out of court with Lowell for $160,000 and Ayer for $3.1 million.
Davis refused to apologize for helping to send Maher to jail for a crime he didn’t commit, claiming that he did nothing wrong. Even if he did nothing wrong, a decent person would at least want to apologize for being a part of destroying someone’s life. J. W. Carney, who was the prosecutor on the case, immediately apologized for his part in convicting Maher.