First-Degree Murder Charge Against James Speaks Dismissed

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has dropped a first-degree murder charge against James Anthony Speaks, who had been indicted in the April 6, 2011 murder of Shonell “Chris” Corriea.

Speaks’ attorney said Wednesday that evidence had shown Speaks to be innocent.

Speaks was arrested on suspicion of second-degree murder on April 12, 2011, and was detained for nearly seven months before being indicted in the case in November 2011. He was charged with first-degree murder and two weapons offenses.

“Our position is that he was innocent and that he never should have been arrested in the first place,” Speaks’ defense attorney, Renee Raymond, said Wednesday. “This is one of those rare homicides when there was both evidence of alibi in the form of witnesses and evidence of an alibi with regard to cell phone records, and evidence of extreme motive by someone else.”

From the outset they were wrong,” she said of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

At a probable cause hearing two weeks after the murder, Raymond argued that Kevin Washington, who was killed just four days after Corriea, was responsible for killing Corriea, and not her client.

Raymond said then that Washington had a motive to kill Corriea, although she didn’t say what that motive was, and that rumors on the street were that Washington’s killing was in retaliation for Corriea’s.

Detective Sgt. John Johnson testified that there were rumors that Washington’s killing was a retaliatory murder, but he discounted Raymond’s argument, saying that the description of Corriea’s killer didn’t match Washington.

Speaks’ case file is dominated by a prolonged back-and-forth between prosecutors and Raymond over Speaks’ detention. After twice denying a motion from Speaks’ attorney to release him, the Court ordered him released into the High Intensity Supervision Program on Feb. 16, 2012.

According to court documents from June, Speaks violated the terms of his release by failing to stay away from the area of the crime. But on June 22, the Court allowed Speaks to remain in the pre-trial release program.

In August, the Pretrial Services Agency informed the Court that Speaks had violated his release terms again by failing to charge his GPS tracker, testing positive for opiates, and failing to report to regular drug testing.

Speaks’ release violations were supposed to be discussed at a hearing on Aug. 31. At that hearing Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gorman asked the Court to dismiss the case and release Speaks.

To the government’s credit, after they came to more exculpatory information in regard to his release, Mr. Gorman really was proactive in asking that Mr. Speaks be released from detention while they were doing further investigation,” Raymond said. “I’m really incredibly happy that the government made the correct decision and decided initially to release him from detention and then ultimately to dismiss the case. I just wish they could have gotten there sooner.”

William Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said that the investigation into Corriea’s death is continuing. He declined to comment further on the case.

Note: Due to staffing, Homicide Watch DC did not publish between mid-August and mid-October. This is among the cases we are going back to cover and we apologize for the delay in publishing.

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