Arizona highway shootings suspect likely to be freed from custody

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 19, 2016 2:25 PM

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A man accused in a string of high-profile freeway shootings that terrorized the Phoenix area last year was likely to be released from custody after a judge on Tuesday reduced his bail to nothing from $150,000.

The reduction in bail for Leslie Allen Merritt Jr., 21, came after an emergency hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court during which his defense revealed that there had been a material change in the evidence.

The Arizona Republic newspaper reported that Merritt's attorneys had called into question the ballistics evidence tying their client to the crimes.

A spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office declined comment, citing a gag order in the case. Defense attorney Jason Lamm could not immediately be reached for comment.

Merritt has been held on 15 criminal counts including drive-by-shooting and aggravated assault, for the first of four shootings along a 10-mile (16-km) stretch of Interstate 10 that passes through Phoenix.

  Merritt told a judge at his initial court appearance last September that authorities had "the wrong guy" and has maintained his innocence in the high-profile case.

His bail was originally set at $1 million but later lowered to $150,000.

(Reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Paul Simao)