PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- For five years, Leslie Merritt Jr. insisted he was not the person responsible for the 2015 freeway shootings. The charges against him were eventually dismissed. Now a judge has cleared his name.
Merritt's father took to social media to celebrate, sharing the court papers that exonerate his son.
In the court filing dated August 11, a judge issued an order to seal all records related to the freeway shooter case. The order went even further to declare Merritt “has been cleared on any allegation or charge… in the interest of justice.” The order seals all files related to Merritt’s arrest and the DPS investigation.
“He broke down crying, he was speechless,” says Merritt’s attorney, Jason Lamm. “There was no evidence from day one.”
Merritt was accused in connection with 11 freeway shootings. No one was seriously hurt but the random attacks gripped the Valley in fear. The charges were dismissed the following year after ballistics evidence came under scrutiny.
“I have never seen one of those motions be successful,” says former Maricopa County Attorney, Rick Romley.
Romley was not involved in the freeway shooter case, but he says minute entries like the August 11 order are extremely rare. Romley says courts are typically reluctant to make a declaration of innocence in case new evidence surfaces.
“If there was something in bad faith that law enforcement did, they truly need to be held accountable,” says Romley. “In fact, heads should roll.”
Lamm says his client’s quest for justice is not over.
“While a court may clear you, the internet doesn’t,” says Lamm.
Merritt spent seven months behind bars before the charges against him were dropped. Lamm is working on a civil suit making its way through federal court.
"The I-10 freeway shootings is a phenomenon that Leslie Merritt is still going to have to live with for the rest of his life, no matter what a judge says,” says Lamm.
The Department of Public Safety said Monday it was unable to comment on the recent ruling.