Judge Hears Motions Ahead of Murder Trial Involving Alleged Police Leak

A DC Superior Court judge heard multiple motions ahead of a murder trial expected to include at least 90 government witnesses.

Ronnika Jennings, a former civilian member of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), and Derek Turner are charged with first-degree murder while armed in the death of 28-year-old Andrew McPhatter on March 1, 2017, on the 3500 block of Wheeler Road, SE. The co-defendants are linked through Jennings’ alleged participation in disseminating classified MPD information to Turner, D.C. Witness previously reported.

Turner, 30, is also charged with first-degree murder while armed in the shooting of 24-year-old Devin Hall on Jan. 7, 2017, on the 3500 block of 6th Street, SE. The prosecution alleges that Turner was a member of the Wahler Place group, which, according to them, had become involved in a dispute with individuals in the Trenton Park neighborhood of DC.

In March 2019, prosecutors obtained an indictment that tied seven cases and four co-defendants together. They are all set to go to trial in October. The prosecution has previously anticipated that they will call 90 to 95 witnesses.

Turner also faces multiple assault and firearms charges in his two murder cases, as does 43-year-old Jennings in her one murder case. She is also charged with conspiracy and accessory after the fact in that case. Turner also faces a conspiracy charge in one of his murder cases. Both defendants are also charged with one count of conspiracy and multiple counts of obstruction of justice in separate cases along with two other defendants: Marshay Hazlewood and Duan Hill.

According to court documents, while the first alleged conspiracy Jennings is charged in stems from alleged contact between her and Turner, the second alleged conspiracy includes all four defendants. Jennings, Turner, Hazlewood and Hill are accused of conspiring to obstruct justice after Turner was arrested for unlawful possession of a firearm. Jennings’ attorney, Dorsey Jones, motioned to sever these alleged conspiracies and have them tried separately, but Judge Juliet McKenna denied the request during the Nov. 22 hearing. 

In another motion filed back in March, Jones also requested that the case move immediately to trial or the indictment be dismissed. 

Jennings has been detained since April 2018, when she was indicted on 14 counts; one count of conspiracy and 13 counts of obstruction of justice. In September, she was charged with murder. According to court documents, a judge decided she would also be held without bond in the murder case and nullified the 100-day deadline for jury trials in the earlier case. Her indictment in the murder case came in February 2019.

“Counsel notes the government could have chosen to seek an indictment for first-degree murder while armed against Ms. Jennings in April 2018 and instead chose to seek an indictment for conspiracy and obstruction of justice,” Dorsey states in his motion. “While the government may have learned of additional information between April 2018 and September 27, 2018 this new information was inconsequential and not substantial enough to justify the change in charges that occurred.”

During the Nov. 22 hearing, Judge McKenna said she cannot attribute any significant delays in the case to the prosecution’s intentions. She also said that, while she acknowledges the stress caused by Jennings’ lengthy pretrial detention, it has not stopped her from being able to defend herself.

She denied Dorsey’s motion.

Turner’s attorney, Michael Madden, also previously motioned for permission to cross-examine one of the prosecution’s witnesses, an MPD detective, with the adverse credibility finding a judge made against him in a misdemeanor case from 2008. Judge McKenna also denied this motion.

More motions are set to be heard on Feb. 16 and July 8.

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