‘This is the Kind of Case That Wrongful Convictions are Made of,’ Insists Defense in Homicide Trial 

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Parties delivered opening statements before a jury in DC Superior Court Judge Anthony Epstein’s courtroom on May 14. 

Devonte Brothers, 29, is charged with first-degree murder while armed and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, among other charges, for his alleged involvement in the murder of 27-year-old Deron Leake, also known as “Snoop”, on Oct. 17, 2019, on the 4200 block of 6th Street, SE. The incident also left one other individual suffering from non-life threatening injuries. 

“Pride. This man chose his own pride over the life of Deron Leake,” claimed the prosecution in their opening arguments. 

According to prosecutors, Leake and three of his closest friends, who all claimed to be “blood brothers,” were hanging out on the day of the incident, before ending up at the Cascade Park Apartment complex, where Leake spent a lot of his childhood. 

As they walked around, prosecutors claim, Leake “dapped up,” or “fist-bumped” a lot of the people whom he knew from his childhood. They ended up going into one of the buildings, where they encountered a group of five-to-eight individuals. 

According to the prosecution, Leake dapped up everyone in the group, which included Brothers. “You don’t know me like that,” prosecutors said Brothers told Leake, which led to a verbal altercation.

Leake and his group left the area following the dispute in an attempt to go back to their vehicle. However, prosecutors claim Brothers intercepted the group in the yard, shot Leake in the head, killing him instantly, before shooting one of his friends twice on the legs.

Prosecutors claim that, following the shooting, Brothers left the area on foot, before getting in a car and fleeing to Maryland.  

Evidence, prosecutors say, “is going to tell [the jury] beyond a reasonable doubt that this man, the defendant, shot Deron Leake and [his friend]… hold this man accountable for his actions.”

However, Molly Bunke, Brothers’ defense attorney, claimed “this is the kind of case that wrongful convictions are made of,” adding that physical and forensic evidence exonerates him of all charges. 

“This is terrifying,” she said of the possibility that Brothers could be wrongfully convicted, “[He] is innocent.” 

According to Bunke, Brothers grew up in the complex and still has family and friends that live in the area. “There is nothing sinister or criminal about that,” she said.

She insisted, “the science tells [the jury] he had nothing to do with this incident,” adding that “this is a classic case of misidentification.” 

“An innocent man sits before you… I cannot think of anything more terrifying,” she insisted, adding “put an end to the nightmare he’s lived.”

Following opening statements, prosecutors called on the first responding officer at the scene. 

According to the officer, who is now a detective sergeant, he was in the area when he heard gunshots. 

In his body-worn camera, which was shown to the court, the witness can be heard on the radio “I’ve got two people down,” before telling Leake’s friend “I see you man,” as he attempted to toss a firearm. 

According to the witness, Leake’s friend was arrested that day for carrying a pistol without a license. 

“Is he dead?,” Leake’s friend could be heard asking the witness. “He’s struggling right now,” the officer replied. 

The witness testified to not being able to render aid to Leake concerned that his two friend were still able to get the surviving victim’s firearm . He added he called for backup, but it was too late. Leake was dead. 

He also located a firearm and a black face mask in Leake’s possession. 

A woman who had known Leake since his childhood in the complex testified to seeing him in the morning leading up to the shooting. 

“He was happy, he was smiling… I told him to be safe,” she said of their interaction and his demeanor. 

However, a few hours later, as she was leaving her mom’s apartment at the Cascade Park complex, she heard shots fired, and in an attempt to ensure her niece was safe she went out to the courtyard. There, she testified, she looked at the victim and “realized it was Snoop.”

Prosecutors also called on an officer who collected a bullet fragment recovered from the surviving victim at a local hospital. 

According to the officer, he rode on the ambulance to the hospital with the victim because he was under arrest and to ensure his safety. 

Body-worn camera footage from the hospital showed a nurse showing the surviving victim the bullet fragment that was removed from his legs before putting it in an evidence cup and giving it to the officer. 

According to the officer, he took the fragment to the Homicide Branch of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) for the Department of Forensic Sciences (DFS) to pick it up. 

Following his testimony, prosecutors called a special agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), who was deemed a cell site expert, and testified that Brothers’ cell-phone was in the area leading up to and during the shooting. However, he said, his phone began to flee towards Maryland in the moments after the shooting. 

During cross examination, Dominique Winters, Brothers’ other defense attorney questioned whether or not the cell site data could prove that he was in the exact location of the incident. According to the special agent, the exact location of the phone cannot be tracked. 

Parties are slated to reconvene May 15. 

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