- Image 1 of 2
- Image 2 of 2
Published April 27, 2016
A day after a judge dismissed charges against the man arrested for last summer's freeway shootings, his attorneys are calling on the court to release all previously sealed documents.
Attorneys for Leslie Merritt Jr. say that opening the documents to the public will further prove that their client is not the person accused of the shootings that caused panic on Phoenix-area freeways, where 11 vehicles were hit in August and September of 2015.
"I think it will open the public's eyes to what the I-10 freeway shooter case, as well as the prosecution of Leslie Merritt Jr., is all about," attorney Jason Lamm said Tuesday.
The motion states the documents should be unsealed to prevent prosecutors from making false claims about why the case was dismissed. It cited a statement from spokesman Jerry Cobb at the Maricopa County Attorney's Office saying the case's latest developments are the result of evidence uncovered by prosecutors.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," the motion states. "Allowing MCAO's statements to stand would constitute a tacit endorsement of the State's misleading the public with utter impunity."
Cobb declined to comment for the story. "We respond to motions in court not in the media," he said.
It's not immediately clear what's in the sealed documents.
Merritt's lawyers have contended that ballistic tests cast doubt on the claim by authorities that Merritt was behind four of the freeway shootings.
Merritt, who spent those seven months in jail before his release last week, has maintained he is innocent and that authorities arrested the wrong person.
He filed a legal claim — a precursor to a lawsuit — a month ago demanding $10 million from the state and county. Merritt alleged that authorities rushed to judgment and failed to provide evidence that he was present at any of the shootings.
Lamm said the case is still in its infancy, but Merritt could seek additional recourse if his arrest is found to be arbitrary or punitive.
In the wake of last summer's shootings, the head of the Arizona Department of Public Safety said they were the work of a domestic terrorist, and authorities heightened patrols and surveillance in pursuit of a suspect.
Detectives took Merritt into custody on Sept. 18, prompting Gov. Doug Ducey to declare "We got him!" on Twitter five minutes after the arrest.
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.
The decision to throw out the case leaves unanswered questions of who might be responsible for the shootings.