DOVER, Del. – The murder case against a man charged in a shooting two years ago at Delaware State University that left one student dead and another injured will be dismissed because prosecutors withheld key evidence, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Loyer Braden, 20, of East Orange, N.J., had been charged with second-degree murder, assault and other crimes after a September 2007 campus shooting that killed 17-year-old Shalita Middleton of Washington, D.C.
Defense attorney James Liguori said a witness walking with Middleton when gunfire erupted told authorities the day after Braden was arrested that he was not the gunman. But he said prosecutors did not disclose that information until last month.
"We had all along been asking them for everything they had," said Liguori, adding the judge made the right decision.
"The judge was not happy ... but to ensure the integrity of the criminal justice system, we all have to do what is fair."
Jason Miller, a spokesman for the state Department of Justice, confirmed that all charges against Braden had been dismissed. He said there is a possibility prosecutors will appeal but declined further comment.
According to Liguori, witness Malcolm McQuiston told authorities in September 2007 that two men sporting dreadlocks and wearing white T-shirts were responsible for the shooting, which left Middleton mortally wounded and another student, Nathaniel Pugh, with an ankle wound.
"Our guy doesn't have dreadlocks," Liguori said.
The state disclosed the videotape of McQuiston's interview in early April — more than a year and a half after it was conducted. Liguori then asked the judge to dismiss the charges against Braden. The judge denied the request but granted the defense open access to prosecutors' files. The judge also gave prosecutors time to find McQuiston so that he could be questioned by the defense.
After the state failed to find McQuiston and suggested that the defense could simply rely on the videotape, Liguori filed another motion to dismiss last week.
Superior Court Judge William Witham Jr. granted the defense motion Tuesday after a hearing.
Liguori said the ruling means Braden can "get on with his life."
"We all have compassion with Shalita Middleton's family, too," he added.
Middleton, who was shot in the abdomen, died more than a month after the Sept. 21 shooting. Braden was arrested three days after the shooting.
According to investigators, Braden was involved in a fight with another student three days before the shooting, and the two confronted each other again at a campus cafe on the night of the shooting. Middleton was among those who tried to defuse the altercation in the cafe.
Investigators said Braden left the cafe shortly after Middleton's group departed, then began shooting at the group as they walked across campus.