Murder Case Set for Trial Amid Arguments Over Exculpatory Evidence

A DC Superior Court judge managed to schedule a murder case for trial despite a clash between parties over exculpatory evidence, also known as Brady material, that the defense says they have not received.

Ronnie Melson, 41, is charged with first-degree murder while armed and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence in the shooting of 41-year-old Demetrius Jones on the 1700 block of Glaes Street, NE, on Nov. 6, 2020. Melson was formally arraigned in the DC Superior Court on March 7. A heated discussion over missing evidence followed.

Defense attorney Bernadette Armand showed an email thread between the defense and the prosecution discussing evidence that the prosecution agreed to turn over last November. The prosecutor said that there needs to be a scrub of all the evidence to make sure everything is already given and if not then it will be. 

Armand rebutted that the prosecution has been notified and told the court there has been a previous Brady violation against the prosecutor handling this case currently. She wants it sent over as soon as possible.

“We have to have a case memory here,” Armand said. 

DC Superior Court Judge Robert Okun agreed with the defense and didn’t understand why the prosecutor needed additional time to send evidence over to the defense, delaying the time they have to review it. The discovery evidence is due April 1.

As parties discussed when the trial should take place, Melson appeared visibly upset by how long it would take for him to go before a jury. He has been held in pretrial detention since November 2020. The defense asked if Melson could address the court. 

Melson expressed his concerns to Judge Okun as he asked for an earlier trial date, preferably within this year.

Since the current prosecutor is not available to go to trial until January 2023, Bernadette asked the court if there was another way to ideally have another prosecutor take over.

“This case is not complicated,” said Armand. The prosecutor countered that this case is a felony and not a misdemeanor. The prosecutor also said there are associated procedures equities in place and that she should have time to handle this case in a timely manner. She also pointed out the lack of lawyers who may be available to take over for her.

“Let’s just get it on the calendar,” said Judge Okun, agreeing with the prosecutor. The trial is scheduled for January 2023.

Parties are slated to reconvene for a status hearing on April 1.