Defense Attacks Identification Evidence in a Murder Trial

Thank you for reading D.C. Witness. Help us continue our mission into 2024.

Donate Now

DC Superior Court Judge Marisa Demeo postponed rulings on outstanding motions in a fatal shooting incident in a May 22 hearing. Unresolved arguments among the parties led the prosecution to call a detective to the stand to testify about the initial investigation of the defendant.

Aaron Murchison, 28, is charged with second-degree murder while armed, possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, and unlawful possession of a firearm with a prior conviction, for his alleged involvement in the fatal shooting of Jamontate Brown, 32, on Oct. 16, 2022. The shooting occurred outside an apartment complex located on the 2500 block of Pomeroy Road, SE.

According to court documents, Brown sustained multiple gunshot wounds and was found on a sidewalk lying on his back with his hands above his head. There was a handgun found on the victim. 

There were 80 spent cartridge casings, four live rounds of ammunition, and 22 fragments recovered from the scene, as per court documents.

The documents also stated that detectives located a vehicle believed driven by the victim that had evidence of gunshot damage to the driver’s side. 

A set of keys belonging to the vehicle were found on Brown, and when law enforcement arrived at the scene, they reported the vehicle near the victim with its engine running.

Court documents stated that a witness claimed the victim must have fired first and then tried to run, which prompted the defendant to start shooting at him.

On April 3, Kevann Gardner, Murchison’s defense attorney, filed a motion to suppress identification testimony from evidence. 

At the hearing, the defense argued for the elimination of information received from a certain witness who allegedly identified Murchison in surveillance footage after detectives presented a photo of him to the witness.

Surveillance footage presented in court shows numerous men, including an individual identified as Murchison, coming in and out of a stairwell in the apartment complex around the time of the shooting.

Gardner stood firm in his argument, stating that the identification was suggestive as opposed to spontaneous, arguing that there was no probative value to the identification made by the witness.

“We don’t believe that happened,” Gardner asserted, referencing the defense’s disbelief that the witness who allegedly identified his client “spontaneously spoke up.”

Gardner insisted on further examination of the information for reliability.

In response, the prosecution presented a detective from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) who assisted the lead detective in the investigation. 

The detective was called to the crime scene and assisted in canvassing shell casings on scene and locating a vehicle believed to be related to the incident.

However, the detective was not present for the initial showing of video surveillance footage to the witness, which he said occurred in the leasing office at the apartment complex, and was not involved or present during the photo identification procedure with the witness. 

He later joined in reviewing surveillance footage at the apartment complex and was in the room with the witness and other detectives.

During his testimony, the detective could not recall details such as who was in the footage review room with him, how big the room was, and whether the surveillance footage was played on a computer screen or a television monitor. 

“You don’t know because it was a year and a half ago?” asked Gardner multiple times throughout the testimony, to which the detective concurred. 

Gardner also questioned the detective on his knowledge of the photo identification procedure and if he knew what was said between the detectives and the witness. Gardner raised hypotheticals about what the detectives in the room could have told the witness.

“Because anything could have happened in that room?” asked Gardner, eliciting a chuckle from the detective.

Additionally, Gardner alluded to MPD’s possible prejudice towards the Murchison family.

Prior to the detective’s testimony, Gardner stated that the U.S. Attorney’s Office is very familiar with the defendant’s family as Aaron Murchison’s brothers Antonio Murchison, 31, and Isaiah Murchison, 24, have been prosecuted for murder in DC.

When questioned about the number of suspects in the incident, the detective stated that Aaron Murchison was the only person whose name was mentioned as a suspect in an MPD debrief meeting that was held in October 2022. 

Gardner inquired about why there was originally only one photograph presented to the witness who allegedly identified Aaron Murchison, as opposed to showing a photo array.

The defense attorney stated all three of the Murchison brothers could have been shown to the witness as it would have been consistent with the witness’ knowledge of the individual identified in the surveillance footage. 

“I’m not sure why [the detectives] didn’t show multiple photos,” stated the detective.

The detective stated that the exact photo that was shown to the witness for identification was a photo that came from an email sent from a criminal research specialist. The email was shown in court with parts redacted, but included identifying information related to the defendant. Its subject line read, “Relatives for [defendant’s mother] and Photo of her Possible Son.”

At the end of his testimony, the detective stated that he did not believe he was aware that the defendant’s mother had three sons, but later found out that two of the sons were incarcerated at the time of the incident.

Judge Demeo postponed the previously scheduled trial to June 6, due to outstanding motions. 

The defense was adamant in starting trial as soon as possible, but requested that a motions hearing be held at least a week in advance of the start date of the trial.

Judge Demeo will rule on the motions on May 29.

Follow this case