Murder charges stemming from a shooting outside a nightclub last year have been dismissed by prosecutors, who have said they can't definitively prove who did what. It's unlikely at this point, they say, that anyone will be charged.
Of course, D.C. criminal defense lawyers would point out that this action wasn't taken before two men were arrested and jailed on felony murder charges, with one ultimately pleading guilty to assault.
It is actually quite rare that prosecutors will admit to a lack of evidence prior to the conclusion of a felony case. The truth is, you certainly can't count on similar action in your own case. No matter what evidence exists against you, your best defense is an experienced defense attorney. When the prosecution's case is weak, a defense attorney just force their hand.
This is a case that has been riddled with flaws from the very beginning.
Back in March 2011, gunfire erupted in the Kennilworth Avenue Surf Club. Responding officers discovered a 30-year-old D.C. man who had been shot multiple times. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was soon after declared deceased.
Within two months, homicide detectives had identified two male suspects, both 24-years-old. They were arrested on warrants, with one having to be extradited from Las Vegas. Both were charged with first-degree murder.
Authorities claimed that the two younger men were involved in some kind of altercation with the alleged victim inside the nightclub. That fight continued outside, and police claimed that one of the men shot the victim while the other drive the getaway car.
In November of last year, one of those individuals was mistakenly released from jail as he awaited trial. He had been held on a no-bond status, but apparently a clerical error had resulted in his case being confused with another, unrelated case with a similar case number. He was accidentally freed on $75,000 bond, and authorities had trouble finding him at first, though he voluntarily appeared at a subsequent bond hearing later that month.
The other man, the one police suspected to be the actual gunman, was indicted twice by a grand jury and his case went to trial last month. On the third day of that trial, prosecutors suddenly dropped the murder charge against him and negotiated a plea deal in which he would plead guilty to assault charges and serve a five-year sentence, in exchange for prosecutors dismissing the first-degree murder charge, as well as charges of obstruction of justice. Facing a life sentence if convicted for murder, he accepted that agreement and was formally sentenced earlier this month, after prosecutors announced they would no longer move forward with the case.
All charges have been dropped against the man who was mistakenly freed as well.
Prosecutors haven't offered much insight into the reasoning behind their decision, except to say that following the full completion of their investigation, that they were unable to prove who did what.
One would think that a murder - or any crime - that takes place in front of dozens of people would be open-and-shut. But the reality is, there is all kinds of doubt that can be raised because eyewitness testimony is often unreliable, particularly in a scenario where people are drinking, it's dark and there may be mass confusion and panic.
These are all issues that can be raised by your attorney both prior to and during trial.