State moves to dismiss charges against Merritt

Posted at 5:41 PM, Apr 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-23 16:21:04-04

The State of Arizona has moved to dismiss all charges against accused freeway shooter Leslie Merritt, Jr.

According to Merritt's attorney, the state filed the motion Friday. 

Jerry Cobb, spokesman for Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, said that the office filed a motion to dismiss the charges, which include carrying out a drive-by shooting, without prejudice against Leslie Merritt Jr.

"In conjunction with (the Department of Public Safety), we have identified additional forensic investigation that needs to be completed in order for the case to proceed," Cobb said. 

"That evidence is at the heart of the case and that raises real questions about the prosecution," said legal analyst Hector Diaz. "I think that was the pivotal point."

This action will allow them "the necessary time" to file charges again, Cobb added. He declined to comment further.

"They're going to sit down and say 'Were there mistakes made? Where did those mistakes happen? And how do we make sure they don't happen again?'" said Diaz.  

Merritt's lawyer Jason Lamm and DPS Capt. Damon Cecil both declined to comment, saying the judge's gag order prohibiting discussing the case remains in effect until the charges are officially dismissed.

A statement from Governor Doug Ducey's office said the issue "was working its way through the criminal justice system, where it remains under investigation by state and county authorities."

Merritt was released from jail earlier this week after a judge reduced his bond to $0.

RELATED: Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey responds to Merritt's release

Merritt was arrested in August and indicted on 15 felony counts in connection with several of the 11 confirmed shootings which happened on Valley freeways last year. DPS officials said they had ballistic evidence tying him to four shooting incidents on Interstate 10 which happened between August 27 and 29.

Merritt entered a plea of not guilty, and his lawyers have challenged the strength of the state's evidence against him, pointing out officials altered the timeline of when they occurred, and accused DPS of lying to witnesses and withholding evidence.

Merritt and his lawyers filed a lawsuit last month against the State of Arizona, Maricopa County, Gov. Doug Ducey and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery for $10 million in compensation for lost wages, legal fees and emotional stress.

"If you can use the state's evidence against them, that sometimes can be just devastating to a prosecution," said Diaz.