Judge Delays Probable Cause Ruling in Homicide Case

On Aug. 30, DC Superior Court Judge Rainey Brandt delayed her ruling on probable cause for a homicide to review evidence presented by parties in the case. 

Joseph Ballard, 59, is charged with second-degree murder while armed for his alleged involvement in the fatal stabbing of 33-year-old Monte Daniels on July 28 on the 1600 block of Benning Road, NE. 

Prosecutors called forth the Metropolitan Police Department’s (MPD) lead detective for the case. According to the detective, witnesses of the incident told MPD that the altercation stemmed from Daniels accusing Ballard of stealing his crack pipe. 

According to MPD documents, which were adopted by the detective as part of his testimony, and surveillance footage shown in court, Daniels was in the parking lot near two females arguing over an unknown issue. Daniels approached a group of individuals that were sitting on a curb, which included Ballard, and, after a verbal altercation, smacked Ballard’s hat off his head. 

Daniels then walked away from Ballard towards the parking lot when Ballard followed him. Daniels is seen turning to face Ballard with his palms facing up, showing that he apparently didn’t have any weapons, when Ballard allegedly stabs him on the chest. Daniels begins to walk away while he lifts his shirt to check himself, before collapsing in the middle of the lot. 

Ballard left the scene  for a few minutes, returned to grab a bike and a few other items, and left the location again. He was stopped and detained by MPD about two hours after the incident. The murder weapon was never recovered, but Ballard reportedly told MPD officers he had gotten rid of it somewhere. 

According to the detective, a speck of suspected blood was visible on Ballard’s white shoe when he was detained. He was taken to MPD’s homicide branch to be interviewed. 

In an interview, which was recorded, the detective asked Ballard what happened that morning. Ballard explained that he had done heroin around 6 a.m. and had just been hanging out in the area like he always did. The detective asked him what he typically did in the area, and Ballard told him he did everything, including live there. 

“He [Daniels] slapped me real hard,” Ballard told the detective regarding the incident, “I just lost it”. 

During the detective’s cross examination, Pierce Suen, Ballard’s defense attorney, questioned the detective on various eyewitnesses’ accounts about the defendant and victim. 

According to the detective, several eyewitnesses who often frequented the area told MPD officers that Daniels was known to carry weapons with him and be aggressive with others, but stated that he never heard from any of the witnesses that Daniels had ever used the knives he was known to carry. 

Following the detective’s testimony, Suen called forth an investigator for the Public Defender Services (PDS) that had helped to investigate the case. 

The investigator stated that she spoke with two eyewitnesses that knew Ballard and Daniels from the area on Benning Road. Both witnesses interviewed by the investigator described Daniels as a bully and an aggressive individual, stating that they had frequently seen him assaulting Ballard and others in the area. 

One of the witnesses, says the investigator, even heard Daniels threaten to “kick someone’s ass” multiple times. According to the investigator, Daniels was known to target individuals who were of a smaller build than him and older. 

The investigator told the court that neither witness identified Ballard as an aggressive or mean individual, but rather stated they were shocked by his involvement in the incident. 

Following the investigator’s testimony, the prosecutor requested Judge Brandt find probable cause that Ballard committed second-degree murder when he stabbed Daniels, arguing that Daniels walked away from Ballard after he smacked him on the head and his body language when Ballard confronted him in the parking lot was that of an individual who was not trying to fight or cause any trouble. 

Prosecutors argued that Ballard’s leaving the scene and getting rid of the murder weapon proves consciousness of guilt, and that self defense is not a plausible argument because several seconds had passed since Daniels slapped Ballard and he was not in immediate danger at the time of the stabbing. 

On the other hand, Suen requested Judge Brandt not find probable cause for second-degree murder, stating that the prosecution failed to meet the burden of proof for the ruling. He stated that if Judge Brandt should find probable cause it should be for the lesser included charge of voluntary manslaughter.

Suen argued that Daniels was the first aggressor in the incident, and that Ballard, who is older and weaker than Daniels, stabbed him as a reaction to an adequate provocation. 

“Based on physical disparity and an extended history of aggressive conduct on Ballard and others by the decedent, we have provocation and fear of the decedent from someone like Ballard,” Suen said, insisting that because of Daniels’ known attacks Ballard feared him. 

Prosecutors argued that there is no rationale to downgrade the second-degree murder charge to voluntary manslaughter because Ballard could’ve walked away from the incident like Daniels tried to do. 

“He was upset and attacked. He stabbed the victim’s heart,” argued prosecutors. 

Parties are expected back Aug. 31 to hear Judge Brandt’s probable cause ruling.

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