Suspect in Arizona Freeway Shootings to Be Released

Leslie Merritt Jr. will be electronically monitored at home
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 19, 2016 4:07 PM CDT
Suspect in Arizona Freeway Shootings to Be Released
This Nov. 16, 2015 file photo suspected Phoenix freeway shooter Leslie Allen Merritt Jr., right, talks with his attorney Ulises Ferragut during a motion to modify his release at Superior Court in Phoenix.   (Michael Schennum/The Arizona Republic via AP,File)

A judge on Tuesday allowed a man charged in freeway shootings that rattled Phoenix last year to be released from jail amid questions about evidence authorities say links him to the crimes. The judge overseeing the case of Leslie Merritt Jr. reduced his bond to zero and said he can return to his home under electronic monitoring, the AP reports. He was expected to be released later in the day. The reduction of the bond—once $1 million—was a major victory as defense lawyers contend that ballistic tests cast doubt on the claim by authorities that Merritt was behind four of the freeway shootings. "With all due respect your honor, there's no evidence against him to show he's responsible for this," defense lawyer Jason Lamm said. "He is no more the I-10 shooter than, respectfully, you are."

Merritt lifted up his shackled arms in celebration as he walked from the courtroom. After the hearing, family members hugged and shook the hands of defense lawyers. Merritt has pleaded not guilty to drive-by shooting, aggravated assault, and other charges. The shootings caused panic on Phoenix-area freeways, where 11 vehicles were hit in August and September. Detectives took Merritt into custody on Sept. 18; in court the next day, Merritt adamantly denied shooting any cars, telling the judge, "I'm the wrong guy." His lawyers immediately began raising questions about the evidence, citing ballistics information and phone records they say provided an alibi for their client. (Also Tuesday, a motorist suspected of shooting at other vehicles on an Alabama highway died after a shootout with officers.)

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