Dwayne Dillard murder trial vacated less than two weeks before it was set to begin

Among discussion over a key witness in connection to a possible conflict of interest in the Dwayne Dillard murder case, Judge Jose Lopez insisted on “damage control” and ruled to throw out the current trial date.

According to the prosecution, the witness was the complainant in a burglary case last year and was represented by the Public Defender’s Service. As a result, the prosecution says they are investigating a possible conflict of interest, though they didn’t specify what the conflict was.

In turn, Judge Lopez insisted on pausing all proceedings in an effort not to “taint any rulings.”

In the wake of this decision the set trial date was vacated and no new trial date was set. However, all parties are scheduled to meet later in the month in order to assess pending issues in order to fix any new conflicts that arise.

Before all proceedings were paused, major discussion centered on the “Urban gun battle” theory. The theory states that if a defendant is involved in a shoot out when a bystander is killed the defendant can be found guilty if there’s proof that the defendant or one of the other people involved in the shootout fired the fatal shot, according to the D.C. Public Defenders Service criminal law blog.

When the case eventually goes to trial, the prosecution plans to use the theory as the bulk of their case in proving that James Coffield, and co-defendant Shakim Lyons, Jonathan Taylor, and Harry James Herbert are guilty for their alleged participation in Dillard’s shooting death.

Multiple members of the defense team found issue with the theory on the premise of heresy. One lawyer made his case on the belief that anyone in the neighborhood could say they saw his client that area during the time of the shoot out and claim that he was a part of the shooting. The point being that the parameters of this theory would be based on what people in the area saw and not tangible evidence.

Another lawyer found issue with the “gang-style fight” basis of the theory: one group of people battling another. In this portion of the argument, the defense agreed that it was prejudicial and one lawyer in particular noted,”I have problems with that.”

The prosecution defended the theory and stated there would be no mentionings of gangs. Instead, they would prove that the shooting took place over a feud between two neighborhoods: Oxford Manor and Wash View. In order to assert their argument, they would have witnesses testify to identify if the defendants are from a particular neighborhood.

Another defense attorney made a motion to dismiss the theory entirely on the basis that it is unconstitutional.

Judge Jose Lopez refused to determine the constitutionality of the theory and instead said he would rely on the Court of Appeals previous decision and abide by the ruling that the theory is constitutional. Overall the judge ruled in favor of the prosecution and stated, “the government may proceed on that theory.”

Collectively, Coffield, Taylor, Lyons and Herbert are being held without bond as they face second-degree murder while armed.

All four defendants are expected in court April 24 for a status hearing.

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