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Louisiana murder case opens with killer identity doubt

Violence on a Louisiana city street killed one man and injured four others. The Orleans Parish drive-by shooting in February 2011 was followed by a series of events that led to a young man's arrest and a murder charge. The defendant and two other men allegedly fired shots at a group outside an apartment complex: three men, a woman and a three-month old baby.

Prosecutors believe the targets were the victim who died of multiple gunshot wounds, age 19, a critically-injured man, age 23, and a third man, age 19. The woman and infant apparently were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Prosecutors think the murder was gang related, although did not tie the defendant to any particular gang.

At the recent opening of the second-degree murder trial, the 23-year-old defendant's lawyer argued the state's case was based on the testimony of a man who desperately wanted to avoid jail. The only person to link the defendant with the drive-by is facing murder charges in an unrelated case. He took two years to identify the alleged shooter, after initially failing to point him out in a lineup.

The defendant is one of three men believed to have taken part in the 2011 shooting. The other two men were shot and killed in separate gang incidents. The second death took place in June 2012, about eight months before the defendant was arrested.

The young man came to trial with a criminal record. The defendant already had been arrested for simple burglary, illegally carrying weapons, possession of a stolen vehicle and resisting a police officer. A murder conviction could put the 23-year-old man behind bars for the rest of his life.

Evidence from unreliable sources doesn't support criminal charges. The identity of a killer and intent must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Any uncertainty means a jury cannot convict a defendant of a crime.

Source: The TImes-Picayune, "Suspected gunman in fatal Valentine's Day drive-by shooting on trial" Helen Freund, Feb. 25, 2015

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