Preliminary Hearing Concludes With Judge Releasing Murder Defendant

A DC Superior Court judge released a murder defendant from DC Jail at the end of a preliminary hearing. 

On the evening of Jan. 19, 2021, Metropolitan Police Department officers found two men in the parking lot of an apartment complex in the Mayfair neighborhood of Northeast, DC, according to court documents. One of them, 32-year-old Tyrone Wright, had been shot in the head, body and legs. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The other man sustained a gunshot wound to the upper right leg. He was taken to a hospital in stable condition, but died from natural causes later in the year.

Two defendants, Ronald Wallace and DeAngelo Glover, are charged with first-degree murder while armed in connection with Wright’s death. Glover was arrested less than two months after the homicide and had his preliminary hearing the following May, during which a judge ruled that his case has enough evidence to go to trial.

Wallace, 48, was arrested last February. His preliminary hearing began on April 12 with testimony from the lead Metropolitan Police Department detective on the case and picked back up for closing arguments on April 14.

The prosecutor argued that there is more than enough probable cause that Wallace committed first-degree murder while armed, saying three rounds of gunshots were fired by two shooters in less than 30 seconds.

The homicide is alleged to have been committed in retaliation for the death of Wallace’s brother, 36-year-old Marcus Wallace. The brother was fatally shot on Nov. 21, 2020, on the 1400 block of L Street, SE. Deshaun Gaskins was charged with first-degree murder while armed in relation to his death, but prosecutors dismissed the case, D.C. Witness previously reported.

A witness identified Wallace as being in the area of the crime scene, wearing a dark, bulky maintenance uniform.

Defense attorney Michael Bruckheim cast doubt on the credibility of the eyewitnesses. One of them claimed to have seen Wallace in the parking lot prior to the shooting, but Bruckheim pointed out that his client lives in the area. As for the dark, bulky clothing Wallace was allegedly wearing, Bruckheim said many people in that area wear maintenance outfits, and there is no evidence that dark and bulky clothing would describe a maintenance outfit. 

A witness told the detective that Wallace is employed with the DC Housing Authority, where he does maintenance work. Cell phone data indicated an outgoing phone call was made from a phone number Wallace gave his employer.

Bruckheim previously said the phone did not belong to his client. Still, the prosecutor argued that the cell phone was registered to a person with the same first name as the defendant and that it is not unusual for people to give inaccurate information when registering a phone. Prosecutors believe this cell phone data puts Wallace in the apartment complex before and after the shooting. 

The phone number in question touched three different cell towers, including one that was southeast of the crime scene and another one that was even farther south. The defense attorney used this to further question the usefulness of the cell phone data. He argued that the prosecution should have done more to follow up on the information that was provided to them, such as tracking down the person and address connected to the cell phone number. 

Bruckheim also argued that there is no direct evidence that the defendant knew of the shooting or intended for it to happen. He said no one involved in the case could identify Wallace from any still images, and the only identification of Wallace came from the detective who arrested him. Bruckheim called the prosecution’s video evidence “worthless.”

“Zero plus zero plus zero equals zero, it does not equal three,” he concluded.

Judge Rainey Brandt described the detective’s investigative skills as “meh” given the severity of the case and the amount of time the MPD had to investigate it. Wallace was arrested more than a year after the homicide.

“The amount of gaps that could have been followed up on and should have been followed up on is meh,” she said. 

Judge Brandt ruled there was enough evidence to establish probable cause. She said the prosecution’s evidence shows that at least one witness placed Wallace at the scene while another claims Wallace confessed to them.

However, Judge Brandt also said that because of the nature and circumstance of the case, probable cause was a small thing, given the limited amount of evidence.

She pointed out how the detective testified that there was another individual walking around the complex dressed the same way but the only difference was that one’s attire was not as bulky as the other. Judge Brandt also agreed with Bruckheim that Wallace’s presence in the area, allegedly indicated by cell phone data and witness testimony, is not remarkable since he lives there.

“Does that make everyone who lives there a suspect,” she posed.

Given the weakness of the evidence, Judge Brandt said she “cannot bootstrap detention.” She released Wallace into the High Intensity Supervision Program.

His next hearing is scheduled for June 17.