Accused I-10 shooter released from jailPosted: Updated:
The accused I-10 shooter is out of jail. Leslie Merritt Jr., walked out of jail at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Earlier, judge reduced the bond of the suspected I-10 shooter from $1 million to zero and ordered his release with electronic monitoring.
"Based upon the written motion and material submitted pursuant to court order under seal, the court does find a material fact not presented earlier that would justify a modification of release conditions," Judge Warren Granville ruled.
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Merritt Jr., a former landscaper, was also told to have no contact with any of the victims.
He is set to be back in court for a status conference on May 18.
"There's no evidence against him to show that he's responsible for this," said Merritt's attorney Jason Lamm, as he spoke outside court Tuesday morning. "He's no more the I-10 freeway shooter than respectfully you are, your honor."
"Our client was branded public enemy number one. He was called a domestic terrorist. He’s been in jail in solitary confinement for seven months. Our reaction? We’re thrilled."
[MOBILE USERS: Click here to view entire interview with Jason Lamm]
Judge releases my client Leslie Merritt Jr - the I-10 Freeway Shooter - from jail based on a change in the evidence.— Jason Lamm (@PhxCriminalAtty) April 19, 2016
As he left courtroom, he looked at his family and friends, smiled and raised his cuffed fists in the air. Some of them smiled and laughed.
"He isn't going anywhere," said Lamm. "He has every reason to be present for the proceedings."
As for dismissing the case, "You can't file a motion to dismiss on the facts," Lamm told reporters. But he added there could be a legal reason to do so.
Merritt has been in jail for more than six months, accused of four of the 11 freeway shootings that terrorized the Valley last fall.
He was charged with 15 counts, including endangerment, drive-by shooting, unlawful discharge of a firearm, aggravated assault, and disorderly conduct in connection with freeway shootings.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has said each of the four shootings carries a possible sentence of 20 to 30 years.
Merritt has vehemently denied being responsible for the August 29 and 30 freeway shootings. Police have said four cars were shot while driving along various stretches of the I-10. Detectives found bullets and bullet fragments in each case.
Ballistics tests matched all of them to Merritt Jr.'s 9mm handgun, according to the investigation documents.
Merritt Jr. told police on Sept. 18 that he could not have been the shooter because his handgun had been sitting in a pawn shop for a month and a half. But he later said the weapon had been pawned three or four weeks earlier and then near the end of the interview, that the gun was pawned on a specific date in late August.
Detectives told Merritt that they had video of him pawning his handgun on Aug. 30. Finally, he said he remembered pawning the gun on Aug. 29, because he and his fiancee needed money to buy baby formula for their daughter, according to a transcript of his police interview.
Merritt has filed a $10 million claim against Gov. Doug Ducey and the state, claiming they ignored evidence, intimidated witnesses and falsely accused him of the shootings.
Merritt's attorney told reporters Tuesday he will continue fighting for his client.
"The case has not been dismissed," said Lamm. "Because technically the charges are still ongoing, we’re still fighting. The fat lady hasn’t sung yet. She may have warmed up a little today, but we’re still working on our defense until it’s over and we will until the very last minute."
Statement from Gov. Ducey's officer:
"Our concern has and always will be public safety. The community was in a constant state of fear over the I-10 shootings for three weeks, including warning signs on the freeway. The governor is glad we have now gone seven months without shootings, and he will continue to put public safety first.
With respect to the ongoing case before the court — it is in the hands of the judicial branch, where it will continue to play out, and we are confident the process will be fair."
Need help getting client a job - Has landscaping experience and is very dependable (tracked by GPS ankle bracelet). Available tomorrow.— Jason Lamm (@PhxCriminalAtty) April 19, 2016
Judge Warren Granville granted the motion to modify release to pretrial service release with electronic monitoring in State v Merritt Jr.— MC Superior Court (@courtpio) April 19, 2016
Next court date in State v Leslie Merritt Jr is a status conference on May 18th before Judge Granville.— MC Superior Court (@courtpio) April 19, 2016
As he left courtroom he looked at his family and friends, smiled and raised his cuffed fists in the air. Some of them smiled and laughed.— Marc Liverman (@MarcLiverman) April 19, 2016
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