Judge Finds Probable Cause in Homicide Case

A DC Superior Court judge ruled that there was evidence against a homicide defendant to bring his case to trial. 

Jamall Thornton, 26, is charged with second-degree murder while armed in the shooting of 35-year-old Antoine Pierce. On Dec. 11, 2020, Pierce was found unconscious in a vehicle at the intersection of 21st Street and Benning Road, NE, suffering from three gunshot wounds.

Before the May 4 hearing began, the prosecution said a pre-preliminary hearing plea deal was offered to Thornton, which would be off the table at the start of the hearing. After speaking to his client, defense attorney Kevann Gardner said that Thornton was not ready to give up the option of the plea and would like to continue plea discussions. After speaking with supervisors, the prosecution was able to keep the plea deal on the table while still continuing with the preliminary hearing.

Gardner argued that the prosecution’s case largely relies on Thornton’s account of events during police interviews, but there is evidence that the defendant made statements involuntary with the promise that Thornton would be released if he incriminated himself.

Gardner also said there is no physical evidence tying Thornton to the crime, pieces of evidence were not sufficiently investigated, the only witnesses found were two ear-witnesses and there was no indication Thornton was a gun owner or had access to guns. 

The defense also noted that one of the witnesses gained access to the crime scene before authorities arrived and retrieved an infant in Pierce’s car. He argued that this suggests other people who the detectives did not know about could have tampered with the scene or been present before authorities arrived at the scene.

The prosecution argued that Thornton admitted he shot at Pierce’s car in the middle of the day and successively endangered numerous bystanders. She also clarified that Thornton’s statements are corroborated by Pierce’s wounds, the holes in Pierce’s car, the ear-witnesses and video surveillance. 

The prosecution ended by pointing out the car Thornton was using at the time of the shooting  was found abandoned with its tags missing, even though the tags were present in the surveillance footage at the time of the shooting.  She said this suggested there was an effort made to cover something up. 

Judge Marisa Demeo said she did not find that Thornton’s statements were made involuntarily, only that there was some sanctioned investigative trickery involved. She also agreed with the prosecution that Thornton’s statements were corroborated by multiple pieces of evidence. 

After the ruling, Gardner asked Judge Demeo to release his client into home confinement, arguing that he had demonstrated he was not a flight risk because he could have fled before his arrest in the days after the shooting. The prosecution asked that Thornton be held in DC Jail due to dangerous nature of the alleged offence.

Judge Demeo said she recognized Thornton has no history of alcohol or substance use and has a stable work history, but she also noted that he has a prior robbery conviction. She ultimately decided that Thornton should remain held at DC Jail.

The next hearing is scheduled for July 7.