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Defense Dissects Phoenix Freeway Shooter Investigation

Ulises Ferragut
(Photo by Matthew Casey - KJZZ)
Attorney Ulises Ferragut (left) shakes hands with Jason Lamm outside Maricopa County Superior Court after a judge lowered Leslie Merritt Jr.'s bond to zero.

Leslie Merritt Jr.’s defense team tore apart the police work that led to him being accused of some of the I-10 shooting incidents during a roughly one-hour briefing Thursday.

With no eyewitnesses or video, they argue Merritt could only be tied to the shootings by ballistics evidence.

An Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) analysis concluded the bullets did come from Merritt’s gun. But prosecutors also hired an outside expert to review the evidence. 

“Whether it was the product of erroneous analysis or confirmation bias, we don’t have the answer,” said Jason Lamm, one of Merritt’s attorneys. “But either way, the state’s own expert said that the ballistics were not a match.”

Lamm said additional forensic evidence, paid for by defense, disproves the timeline that was built, and later changed, by DPS.

After seven months in solitary confinement, Lamm said Merritt has shown signs of post traumatic stress disorder since he was released from jail last week

Merritt now has depression, anxiety and trust issues, said Ulises Ferragut, another attorney for Merritt. Ferragut announced plans to follow up on a $10 million notice of claim with a civil lawsuit.

“The damage that has been done to Leslie Merritt, to his family, to his children, is unforgivable,” Ferragut said. 

In a news conference Wednesday, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said the freeway shooting investigation is ongoing. But he would not say if Merritt is still the main suspect.

When Montgomery’s office moved last week to drop more than a dozen felony charges against Merritt, it left the door open to possibly refile them.

Merritt’s attorneys said Thursday that they’ll ask a judge to permanently dismiss them.

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.