Acquitted: Judge Denies Homicide Defendant’s Judgment of Acquittal Motion

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Editor’s note: On May 30, a jury acquitted Devonte Brothers of all charges connected to the homicide of Deron Leake. Brothers is still being held on homicide charges in another case.

A homicide defendant’s request for DC Superior Court Judge Anthony Epstein to acquit him of all charges following the prosecution’s presentation of evidence was denied in a May 22 hearing. 

Devonte Brothers, 29, is charged with first-degree murder while armed, assault with intent to kill while armed, two counts of possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, and unlawful possession of a firearm by a prior convict, for his alleged involvement in the murder of 27-year-old Deron Leake, also known as “Snoop”, on Oct. 17, 2019, at the Cascade Apartment Complex on the 4200 block of 6th Street, SE. The incident also left one individual with non-life threatening injuries.

According to witness testimony, the shooting stemmed from an argument between Leake and the suspect regarding Leake “dapping up” the shooter without having a close relationship. Dapping is slang for a friendly handshake.

Dominique Winters, Brothers’ defense attorney, motioned for acquittal, insisting that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Brothers was the perpetrator in Leake’s murder.

Specifically, Winters argued that all charges should be dismissed based on identification grounds, arguing that only one individual was able to identify Brothers as the shooter in a photo array with detectives of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). 

However, she claimed that he was only able to do so a year after the murder, and she insinuated he received a legal benefit for it, arguing the assigned prosecutor dismissed a case against him.

Winters also argued that the witness failed to identify Brothers as the killer in court when asked by prosecutors if the shooter was in the room. She also insisted because he was intoxicated at the time of the incident, it could have played a role in what he saw and what he remembers.

During her oral motion, Winters claimed the shooter was outnumbered two-to-one during the incident, citing the recovery of two firearms from Leake and the surviving victim. 

She also argued against the intent to kill aggregate in the assault charge, insisting there was “no outrageous amount of shots fired.” She added that the shooter could have acted in self-defense, since the surviving victim testified he also fired his gun.

Despite her arguments, Judge Epstein denied the motion, stating that the individual who identified the shooter in the array “was 100 percent confident,” and insisted that Winters’ arguments “go to the weight [of the evidence].” 

As for the intent to kill aggregate, Judge Epstein argued “there was time to develop the intent to kill after the argument.” 

Parties are slated to reconvene May 23.

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