At a hastily called hearing Friday afternoon, a senior prosecutor asked that murder charges be dropped against a York City man who was arrested as a juvenile for allegedly killing a man at a house party.
Shane Darell Brown, now 18, was expected to be released immediately from York County Prison, where he's been held for nearly a year and a half, according to defense attorney Karen Comery.
"(Brown) is not the shooter — is not the person who committed the homicide," chief deputy prosecutor David Maisch told Common Pleas Judge Gregory M. Snyder.
Brown was 17 when he was arrested for the Oct. 7, 2012, homicide of Denzel Damien Turane, 18, of West Maple Street. A 14-year-old girl and her 16-year-old sister were wounded by stray bullets during the homicide, and Brown was charged with those assaults as well.
The gunfire erupted at a house party at 112 W. Jackson St., York City Police have said.
Innocent: "Shane Brown is innocent?" Snyder asked Maisch, who confirmed that is the prosecution's belief.
Snyder then dismissed all charges against Brown, including first- and third-degree murder, aggravated assault and firearms offenses.
Comery said because charges were dismissed by a judge and not simply withdrawn by prosecutors, her client cannot be recharged.
"My client has maintained his innocence from day one," she said. "I will be referring (him) to a civil attorney."
Comery said there was enough initial evidence against Brown for police to file the charges, but that recent evidence brought that identification into question.
While an eyewitness initially identified Brown as the shooter, it was dark at the party and another eyewitness identified a different person as the shooter, according to Comery.
"So there was a lot of reasonable doubt for a jury to consider," she said.
Concerns: Then on Wednesday, Maisch alerted Comery to a videotaped statement of a witness with information about the homicide, who identified the shooter as being someone other than Brown, according to Comery.
Comery said she has concerns about the fact that the statement was taken on Feb. 24, yet three days later, on Feb. 27, Maisch offered a plea deal to Brown.
"And it's my understanding it wasn't the first interview with this witness," she said.
Comery questioned how long prosecutors had been aware of the evidence that cleared her client, and why they offered her a plea deal after they learned of the new witness, but before she had been told about that new witness.
This was Comery's first murder case as a defense attorney. She previously was chief deputy prosecutor for the York County District Attorney's Office.
Hearing set: A guilty-plea hearing for Brown had been scheduled for March 24, according to court records.
The proposed plea agreement would have dropped the murder and assault charges and required Brown to plead guilty to a felony firearms charge, she said.
But the new witness specifically told police that Brown is not known to carry a gun, according to Comery.
Maisch referred comment to Kyle King, spokesman for the district attorney's office.
King said prosecutors had a duty to make sure the statement made by the new witness was credible before they did anything else.
Maisch would not have allowed the plea agreement to go through if he believed Brown to be innocent, according to King.
"At that time not all the facts had come out," King said. "If we don't feel someone's guilty of a crime, we're not going to proceed with (trial)."
King said the district attorney's office keeps investigating cases up to the time of trial or plea.
So far, no one else has been charged with Turane's homcide.
King said it's an ongoing investigation and, because of that, prosecutors can't release more information about the investigation's new target.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org.