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'I was hoping it would stay away from San Diego," she said, compressing her meaty lips and furrowing her broad fore-head. She had not expected Californian curiosity to find her here, crammed with other unhappy persons into the unsteady first pew of Pulaski County's Sixth Circuit courtroom in Little Rock, Arkansas.

But in a blink of her penetrating, well-made-up eyes, Dr. Kimberly Ann Davis took her loss of sanctuary in stride and turned her attention to surviving the capital murder charge still pending against her. She'd already endured a mistrial. On October 2, after more than 11 hours of deliberations, seven men and five women had hung 10-2 in favor of acquitting her in the shooting death of her wealthy ex-boyfriend, William Heard III.

Chains clinked and the gray-haired bailiff led in a shuffling string of seven prisoners in orange jumpsuits, one of whom ducked and grinned stupidly, waving to his family in the pew behind hers. By comparison, the collected Davis looked positively professional.

Her heavy face remained composed as she said words she would repeat verbatim for several reporters within the quarter hour: That she was anxious to go home. That she had a private office in San Diego. That she was considering "various projects."

Soon enough, Judge David Bogard asked prosecutor Terry Raney if she intended to retry the case. Raney declined. Davis was free to go.

Once outside on the sidewalk, she teared up before the battery of TV cameras. "In some ways I think that the system has been unfair to the Heard family," she said, "and I feel very sad that they've been allowed to believe in anything but that Bill did commit suicide.

"I want to go home. I'm going back to San Diego."

She and her attorneys said the state was "flat-out wrong" to try her for murder; but jurors interviewed after the mistrial were less adamant. Seven of them clustered outside the 1887 Pulaski County Courthouse as what would become a long, soaking rain began to dot the sidewalk around them. At one point in their deliberations, they said, they had hung 10-2 in favor of manslaughter.

"I thought she was innocent until they put her on the stand," one juror said, and the woman beside her nodded. "But the state didn't prove she pulled the trigger."

The dead man's father, William Heard Jr., has said the family is considering a civil action. Heard, his wife, son, daughter, son-in-law, and two staunch family friends listened stoically to hours of defense testimony characterizing Bill Heard as an alcoholic and drug abuser and suggesting his mother's mental health played a role in his alleged depression. The only sign the elder Heard gave of resentment was an occasional, apparently habitual, ear twitch.

Bill Heard, 39, was an unemployed commodities investor supported by a trust fund he was not allowed to control. His financial consultant estimated the trust's value lay between $5 million and $7 million at the time he died, but he had just lost $600,000 in the market. He had no driver's license because he refused to attend 30 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to complete his sentence for DWI convictions. He was 6 feet 3 inches tall, weighed 203 pounds, liked to drink Ensure Plus, played the guitar and the piano, and loved his huntin' dog, James Brown.

Davis, 42, is a medical doctor trained in psychiatry who has practiced general medicine at clinics in Oceanside and Del Mar and counseled homeless people in St. Vincent de Paul's community mental health section in downtown San Diego. A native of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and a graduate of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, she is overweight and well dressed, well manicured, well spoken, and quick with a smile for strangers. She wears waterproof mascara.

Davis was accused of shooting Heard in the heart with his own .357-caliber Magnum revolver around 4:00 p.m. January 2, 1996, "unlawfully, feloniously, with the premeditated and deliberated purpose of causing the death of another person"-- an offense against the dignity of the State of Arkansas that can carry the death penalty. It did not in her case.

Davis can now redeem the $50,000 bond she posted in February -- a low bond in a capital murder trial, but the court did not consider her a flight risk. She remained in Arkansas nine months while under investigation, only returning to San Diego when authorities agreed. Two years later she came back to Arkansas for arraignment, posted bond, and was allowed to return to San Diego until her trial began September 16.

She testified on the stand that she did not kill Bill Heard.

They met at a bar in 1984 and lived together off and on through ten years, during which time Heard struggled with alcoholism, seeing therapists Davis recommended and entering treatment facilities. She prescribed tranquilizers for him beginning in 1985 and continued even after he had been diagnosed as abusing them. She testified she gave him the medicines to help him through alcohol withdrawals and to treat insomnia and gastric upset.

In 1990, Heard left Davis for Donna Baker, a raven-tressed, high-heeled single mother who, according to court testimony, broke his heart five years later by ripping off his credit cards and sleeping with another man.

Davis moved to San Diego in 1991 but continued to send him prescriptions for Paxil, a Prozac type antidepressant, through the mail. In spring of 1991, Heard gave her two gifts amounting to $75,000 to pay back taxes.

Witnesses agreed that his breakup with Donna Baker hit Heard hard in the summer of 1995. He holed up at a trailer on Sligo Plantation, his family's peaceful hunting camp 15 miles south of Natchez, Mississippi. There, according to videotaped testimony by camp caretaker and longtime friend Jimmy Lee Ivory, a black man with an almost indecipherable Mississippi accent, he slept into the afternoon most days and seemed stressed.

Meanwhile, Davis had dropped out of her residency program at UCSD because it did not "challenge" her and the level of supervision was "infantile." She moved to Birmingham, Alabama, to enter a residency program there.

She testified that she rushed to Natchez after work one afternoon and found Heard deeply depressed and his trailer excessively dirty. She began driving back and forth to stay with him until finally she gave up her residency at Birmingham to move into the trailer, where she cooked and cleaned.

"We had a finite agreement," she said, that she would stay long enough to get him back on his feet but would return to San Diego at the turn of the year. After a month, though, she realized Heard's depression was dangerous and by Christmas was convinced she should take him with her when she left.

On December 28, 1995, she drove him from Natchez to his apartment in Little Rock. Six days later she called 911 from there to report Bill Heard dead from a gunshot wound to the chest.

Prosecutor Raney argued that Davis placed the revolver to Heard's chest and coldly pulled the trigger after realizing he had been scheming to reunite with her arch rival, Donna Baker. Raney said Baker and Heard had reconciled by Christmas of 1995 and were making plans to meet in Little Rock as soon as Davis was out of the way. Davis found out and on New Year's Eve, Raney alleged, argued fiercely with Heard, possibly breaking a window.

Kimberly Davis had an "abject hatred" of Baker, Raney said, causing a flurry of scribbling among the TV reporters in the spectators' pews. (They were, in fact, unpadded Baptist pews with hymnal and Communion-jigger brackets on the back; and they very much need to be bolted to the floor, but it's carpeted.)

While denying that she hated "any human being," Davis did admit that she had repeatedly referred to Baker as a "slut" and a "whore." She denied, however, ever calling Baker a "Cherokee whore" or a "bar slut."

On the afternoon Heard died, "Kimberly Davis was a scorned woman," Raney said. Overhearing him on the phone to Baker or perhaps punching redial and hearing Baker answer the phone, she flew into a cold fury, murdered Heard, and then pretended he'd shot himself. But she panicked and gave police conflicting statements.

At first police believed her, and Dr. Frank Peretti, the state's pathologist who autopsied Heard, ruled the death a suicide. But when the trace evidence lab reported she had tested positive for gunshot residue and the dead man had not, they began to look twice at her statements. The position of the gun -- not measured at the scene but only inferred from forensic photographs -- fed suspicion. The gun was found under a baby grand piano and "three or four feet" behind and to the left of the love seat where Davis said she'd found Heard's corpse.

Peretti reassessed the manner of death as "pending." Later, after much debate among the state's four pathologists, he upgraded the manner of death once more to "undetermined." Two years later, Davis was charged.

The defense characterized Davis as an "innocent, caring woman" who tried to help a deeply depressed man she'd once lived with, a weak-willed, drug-wrecked man evincing "flagrant psychotic symptoms" who had repeatedly said he might shoot or stab himself in the chest.

The defense scored points, jurors said, by getting Donna Baker to admit on the stand that Heard had told her if he ever did kill himself, he would use a method that wouldn't mess up his face, such as pills or a gunshot to the chest.

Davis insisted that she had not fought with Heard on New Year's Eve but was merely "very disappointed" that he wanted to see Baker and her daughter, Erika. "It concerned me that some of his noncommittal attitude might have something to do with her, and I asked him about that. And he said that he was just all mixed up, those were his words, 'all mixed up.' "

Davis added, "And I was like, 'Okay.' I was disappointed and hurt in a way...but I was not angry. But it was kinda like, well, if that's what you want to do, that's what you want to do."

She left to stay with a friend but returned after Heard called her there. They sat up late talking about how "he had no intention of getting back with Donna." On New Year's Day they went to see The American President and talked again until 3:00 a.m.

Davis testified Heard told her he'd brought his gun to the apartment and made her promise not to look for it. She was gravely worried about his suicidal "ideation" and the gun, and that's why she felt it imperative to get him to San Diego for treatment.

She said they had discussed other treatment options such as having his brother Bruce drive him to a therapist in Baton Rouge, but Heard agreed he'd rather go with her to find someone she trusted to treat his "major depression."

Raney, an attractive blonde with powerful-looking shoulders and an appearance of firmly controlled outrage on cross-examination, paused over this. Hadn't Davis told another witness there wasn't a psychiatrist in the South who could help Bill Heard?

Davis denied saying that to the witness but added, "I guess I'm a little snobbish about psychiatry, but state-of-the-art psychiatry is practiced at UCSD.... It's a top-notch place to be."

Raney did not pull her back to earlier testimony in which she'd explained why she'd dropped out of the UCSD residency program.

Davis testified she'd made reservations January 2 to fly at 5:00 p.m. with Heard to San Diego. She was about to pack his bags when he asked her to buy him some white shorts. She told him she wouldn't be able to find shorts of any color in Little Rock in January but dashed out anyway about 3:45 p.m. At Dillard's department store she bought herself denim leggings and three pieces of Danskin exercise wear. The sales receipt for that transaction was stamped 4:24 p.m.

The coroner estimates Heard died sometime between 3:45 and 4:30 p.m. The only other evidence useful to establish a timeline came from people who had spoken to Bill Heard on the telephone that afternoon, including his broker, Tom Herring, who said Heard was whispering and sounded tense. "He said that she was in the other room," Herring said.

Donna Baker also testified that Heard called her between 3:30 and 3:45 p.m., promising to call again around 6:00 p.m. after Davis was gone. He hung up the phone abruptly without saying, "I love you," which was his habit. Instead he said, "I've got to go."

When Davis returned to the upscale Riverwalk Apartments, she said, the door at No. 1000 was locked. Collecting a key from the apartment manager, she found Heard apparently unconscious on the love seat.

"I couldn't see any visible signs of trauma," she said. So she began a standard CPR assessment by slapping him and checking for his carotid and radial pulses. She said it was just dark enough in the apartment that she couldn't see the blue tinge in his lips. She thought he had taken an overdose.

While on the phone to 911, she spotted the gun behind the love seat. She testified the sight of it probably prompted her to tell 911 that "my boyfriend shot himself in the chest," even though she had not yet seen the wound. His green outer shirt, a thick garment that made a forlorn appearance in court having been sliced up the middle by paramedics, was bunched so she didn't see the gaping wound beneath it.

Only after she moved his body to the floor and began rescue breathing did she see the wound and realize CPR would be quite useless, she said.

Davis testified a total of four hours and 45 minutes, most of that under cross-examination. Although generally composed, her face crumpled and she broke into tears on many occasions, at one point sobbing, "Miss Raney, I was trying to do the best I could in a really bad situation. I hope it never happens to you or anyone else in this courtroom!"

Juror Joe Aliason was dissuaded of her innocence by her description of herself as "hysterical" over finding a dead body. Aliason's a former resident of San Diego who lived downtown on E Street and worked as an electronics technician at KTTY, Channel 69, until moving to Little Rock four years ago.

"The defense kept trying to portray her as some high-time psychiatrist," he said, "but I know that St. Vincent de Paul's section downtown and those are not high-time psychiatrists that work down there. And if you're working with homeless people, especially in San Diego, you're used to a lot of tense situations. You have to be. And so I did not believe her when she talked about making all these mistakes at the scene because she was shocked at seeing a dead man."

The two years it took Little Rock police to gather evidence passed very slowly, said William Heard, the father, as he waited in the rotunda for the jury to reach its verdict. A tall, reserved man with the aristocratic wit cultivated in his native Oxford, Mississippi, he reads two books a week on astrophysics and comparative religions and once studied creative writing under William Faulkner, who was his father's scoutmaster.

Although Heard refused to entertain talk of investigative incompetence -- "It would misrepresent our gratitude, and I do believe they have done their best" -- the defense found plenty of room in which to suggest otherwise.

The state did not call Peretti, the pathologist of record, to testify, even though he was available. It called instead his colleague Dr. Charles Hall Kokes, who said Heard would not have been able to pivot and toss the gun under the piano before he died. The defense then called Peretti, who said Heard might have had seven or eight lucid seconds before he collapsed. Were it not for the trace evidence finding, Peretti testified, he would still consider the death a suicide.

Gary Lawrence of the trace evidence lab testified for the prosecution about finding an "inconclusive" amount of powder residue on Davis's hands. But then the defense called Lawrence's supervisor, who testified in a soft and reluctant voice that she disagreed with his interpretation of the numbers. "I would call them negative," Lisa Sakevicius said.

Jurors also noted it impressed them that a hired defense witness, Dr. Charles Bux, the deputy chief medical examiner of Bexar County in Texas, agreed with Peretti and Sakevicius. "San Antonio is a huge jurisdiction," one said. "He had seen many cases in which people shot in the heart could walk around."

There were no pertinent measurements taken at the scene; photographs presented as incriminating were impeached, and state's witnesses had to admit that both of the diagrams investigators used were inaccurate, including the large one Raney showed the jury.

That jury included a premed student, a lawyer, and four people who'd seen suicide in their families. It was a well-mannered jury, and those on the sidewalk enjoyed chatting together after the trial. They wanted to talk evidence some more. There was also the lure of TV news Betacam spotlights fixing and pinning single jurors farther down the sidewalk.

The rain began to fall in earnest and the jurors scattered, but Aliason lingered. He said the jury deadlocked because two men "knew in their hearts" that Davis was guilty and couldn't live with letting her walk the street.

"I can live with her on the street," he said, shrugging. "The state didn't prove she did it."

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