Judge Gives Prosecution Until Aug. 19 to Indict in Tawanna Barnes Copeland Murder

Judge Gerald Fisher gave the government another three months to issue an indictment today in its case against Shawn Davis, who is charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing of Tawanna Barnes Copeland.

Copeland, a 41-year-old Georgetown University Hospital employee, was killed in her Southwest D.C. apartment on Dec. 7, 2010. Davis is Copeland’s ex-boyfriend.

Davis appeared in Judge Fisher’s courtroom this morning for a felony status conference represented by defense attorney Lawrence Kupers. He did not express emotion at the hearing but fidgeted with the chain links of his shackle.

At the hearing, prosecutor Chris Kavanaugh said that the case against Davis was strong but complicated, and asked for an additional 90 days to issue an indictment. Kupers argued that the case against Davis was weak, and said that there were no witnesses in Copeland’s death and Davis was working at the time.

Kupers asked that if additional time for an indictment was granted, that Davis be removed from detention at a D.C. jail and placed in an alternative facility, such as a halfway home. Judge Fisher denied the request, and set the date for indictment as Aug. 19, 2011.

Kupers also asked that the government preserve DNA evidence during testing in the case. (Biological material was found under Copeland’s fingernail.) Judge Fisher said the government should make every effort not to consume the DNA evidence, and said that the defense could have the option of having its own investigator present if testing goes forward.

Charging documents in the case are available here.

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