Defense attorneys try freeway shooter case in front of mediaPosted: Updated:
The defense team for Leslie Merritt Jr., the man formerly charged in a series of I-10 freeway shootings, came out swinging in a news conference held in downtown Phoenix Thursday morning.
"There has never been any evidence that Leslie Merritt was the I-10 shooter. There is no evidence that Leslie Merritt is the I-10 shooter. And we are confident that there never will be any evidence that Leslie Merritt is the I-10 shooter because Leslie Merritt is simply not the I-10 shooter," said Jason Lamm, one of Merritt's attorneys.
Lamm appeared with co-council Ulisses Ferragut, both of whom were flanked by paralegals, investigators and others who made up what the two lawyers called their "dream team."
"This was simply a rush to judgment to pacify the community's fears, and it was a highly irresponsible and reckless investigation that culminated in the arrest and imprisonment of a young man who had nothing to do with the shootings," said Ferragut.
The news conference took on the atmosphere of a courtroom, with Lamm mounting his defense case complete with a slideshow and catch phrases.
"There was a public thirst for blood, a public thirst for accountability, and that thirst was quenched by the arrest of Leslie Merritt Jr.," said Lamm.
[READ MORE: Accused I-10 shooter released from jail]
The team, point by point, attacked the evidence the state said it had against Merritt including the results of the state's ballistics expert that was brought in to re-examine bullet fragments found at four of the shooting scenes. The examiner in the Department of Public Safety lab concluded those fragments were fired from Merritt's gun. That evidence was what led to Merritt's arrest.
The state hired Lucien Haag, a nationally and internationally known ballistic expert. But his conclusion did not confirm what DPS and prosecutors hoped it would. According to Merritt's defense attorneys, Haag issued the following conclusion:
The four (4) evidence bullets, AF1, dDW1, KG1, and KG2 could neither be excluded or identified as having been fired in the Hi-Point C9 pistol, serial number P1893054. The areas demonstrated by Mr. Kalkowski on February 29th and illustrated in the note packages in his various reports on these shooting incidents, in the opinion of this examiner, were insufficient to constitute an identification.
"He looked at what DPS did and then did his own independent examination. It was an inconclusive result. It could not be determined that Leslie's gun fired the bullets," said Lamm.
Merritt's attorneys have filed a $10 million claim against the state, the precursor to a lawsuit.
Ferragut called the state's investigation botched and flawed and said the community should be outraged because the real freeway shooter is still out there.
Ferragut also issued what appeared to be a warning to the DPS and the Maricopa County Attorney's office, both of whom have said they are continuing to investigate the case.
"I would caution DPS and the county attorney's office to be very, very careful because if they continue to add to the damage that they've caused this young man there will be a big price to pay and the taxpayers shouldn't have to pay that price," said Ferragut.
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