Murder Defendant Denied Pretrial Release Pending Full Competency Evaluation

A DC Superior Court judge denied a request to release a defendant accused of murder.

On Dec. 14, the Metropolitan Police Department responded to a shooting on the unit block of 61st Street, NE. MPD officers found Jacques Russ, 44, lying in the street unresponsive with a single gunshot to the head. Jamaarr Morgan was subsequently arrested and charged with first-degree murder while armed on March 1. 

Judge Marisa Demeo and parties reviewed the results of the screening during a June 6 hearing. According to a medical evaluation, Morgan’s doctor could not finalize a recommendation on Morgan’s competency. In response, the judge ordered a full competency evaluation of the defendant from the Department of Behavioral Health. 

Dana Page, Morgan’s defense attorney, motioned for her client to be released from custody. She said Morgan has no prior felony convictions and is working toward his GED certificate. If released, Morgan also has employment options and a place to live. In response, the prosecutor stated these were the same reasons the defense presented at Morgan’s preliminary hearing on April 25, when D.C. Superior Court Judge Milton Lee denied a previous motion for release. 

During the preliminary hearing in April, Judge Lee found substantial probability for first-degree murder in the case. The prosecution argued the circumstances in the case have not changed since, and that Morgan’s confinement at DC Jail remains the appropriate course of action. The prosecutor also noted that Morgan is a flight risk who had briefly fled the area previously before returning to the jurisdiction on his own. 

Judge Demeo denied the request based on the seriousness of the charge and the strength of the government’s evidence. She noted the aggravating circumstance that the defendant is believed to have no prior relationship with the victim and therefore represented a threat to the public.

The parties are scheduled to return for another mental observation hearing on July 12.