Judge Finds Probable Cause in Case of Deadly East Corner Neighborhood Shooting

A DC Superior Court judge found probable cause that a defendant committed second-degree murder while armed in reference to an East Corner neighborhood shooting.

On the morning of Dec. 14, 2021, Metropolitan Police Department officers found 44-year-old Jacques Russ lying in a roadway on the unit block of 61st Street, NE, suffering from a gunshot wound to the head. The following March, 21-year-old Jamaarr Morgan was arrested and charged with first-degree murder while armed.

During Morgan’s preliminary hearing on April 25, a prosecutor called one of the detectives who worked on the case to testify about his investigation. He said a .357 shell casing, blue hat, black computer bag, AirPods and broken eyeglasses were found at the crime scene.

The prosecutor displayed images of an individual believed to be Morgan inside a metro facility and on the second floor of a Quality Inn.

The detective said Morgan kept giving officers different stories when he was questioned. Eventually, Morgan said Russ had punched him multiple times, injuring him and prompting him to decide he could not do anything but shoot Russ.

The prosecutor countered Morgan’s claim by saying that Russ was not found to have sustained any injuries on his hands.

During defense attorney Dana Page‘s cross-examination of the detective, it was revealed that Russ has dealt with mental illness and was known to be paranoid about being robbed.

The prosecutor asked Judge Milton Lee to find probable cause. She said Morgan bringing a gun to the crime scene indicated he went into the situation with the intent to shoot Russ.

Page argued that the only actual evidence is what Morgan recounted to detectives after the incident.

“If he wanted to defend himself, he would have taken the sock and rock out of his bag to hit him,” she said.

“Why should I believe Morgan’s statement?” Judge Lee asked Page.

“The reason behind it is the final version of his statement and the fact that detectives could not get any more information,” Page replied.

Judge Lee said this homicide did not constitute first-degree murder while armed as no motive is demonstrated, but he did find probable cause for second-degree murder while armed, saying there was little claim to self-defense.

After Judge Lee made this ruling, Page argued that her client should be released from DC Jail into the High Intensity Supervision Program with GPS monitoring, citing his lack of a criminal record.

The prosecutor countered that Morgan left for New York after the homicide and then came back.

Judge Lee decided to continue Morgan’s detention, saying he is a fight risk since he previously left Washington and allegedly armed at the scene.

Parties are scheduled to meet in court for a status hearing on July 12.

At the defense’s request, Judge Lee ordered a preliminary screening to determine the defendant’s competency to stand trial. A mental observation hearing is scheduled for May 11.