At times today in Judge Gerald Fisher’s courtroom, it seemed like James Speaks, the man sitting at the defense desk in an orange jumpsuit, was not in fact the man under suspicion.
Speaks was arrested April 12 on suspicion of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Shonell “Chris” Corriea in a Petworth ally the night of April 6.
Relying on rumors reported to come from the street, defense attorney Renee Raymond suggested to the court that not her client, but a dead man, Kevin Washington, was responsible for Corriea’s killing.
“There was a very general description given that night that would certainly match Kevin ‘JR’ Washington,” Raymond said, later adding, “We’ve got some pretty good evidence for a motive and a name for someone else to do it.”
Raymond did not say what Washington’s motive to kill Corriea might have been. But she said Speaks didn’t have any motive to kill Corriea and that he was a close friend of Corriea’s family. So close, in fact, that the night Corriea was killed, his brother stayed the night with Speaks’ family.
Detective Sgt. John Johnson testified at Speaks’ preliminary hearing Friday, but discounted Raymond’s assertions, saying that Washington did not match the description of the shooter in appearance because he wore plaits in his hair.
Johnson based his assessment of Washington’s appearance on a photo of Washington in MPD’s system. He conceded that apart from hairstyle Washington could have fit the description of the shooter.
That description, built from several 911 calls and an eye-witness to the shooting, was of a black male approximately 5‘6 or 5‘7.
Johnson testified, “Beat officers said the rumor was Kevin Washington had something to do with Shonell Corriea’s homicide and that it (Washington’s death) was in retaliation.”
Washington, 20, was killed April 10, four days after Corriea was killed and about a quarter mile from Corriea’s home.
“Kevin Washington did not have anything to do with Shonell Corriea,” Johnson added. “No one has come forward to identify Kevin Washington as the shooter. [Kevin Washington’s death] is still under investigation.”
Raymond’s arguments did not cast enough doubt on Speaks’ guilt, though, and Fisher found “substantial probability” that Speaks did in fact fatally shoot Corriea.
Fisher said the testimony that an eye witness to the shooting identified Speaks by name and then picked him out of a photo line-up created “at this point, a fairly strong ID.”
“I don’t have anything that assails probable cause,” the judge said.
Fisher ordered Speaks held until his next court appearance, a status hearing on July 8.