Desmonte Leonard Pleads Not Guilty in Auburn Shooting

By: al.com
By: al.com

OPELIKA, AL -- Desmonte Leonard, the man accused of killing three and wounding three at a June 9 pool party at an Auburn apartment complex, pled not guilty to all charges at his arraignment on Thursday at the Lee County Justice Center.

Leonard, 23, has been indicted on one count of capital murder for the shooting deaths of former Auburn football players Ed Christian and Ladarious Phillips, and Opelika resident DeMario Pitts.

Leonard also faces two counts of attempted murder for shooting at current Auburn wide receiver DeAngelo Benton and Turquorius Vines, one count of first-degree assault for shooting Roanoke's John Robertson and two counts of second-degree assault for shooting current Auburn guard Eric Mack and Xavier Moss of Roanoke.

Defense attorneys Susan James and Jeff Duffey also submitted a motion for a bail hearing, which Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob Walker III set for 2 p.m. on Nov. 14. Leonard is being held in the Montgomery County jail without bond.

"We hope that he sets a bond that someone can make and some conditions that satisfy the court," James said. "The main thing is it's just more efficient to have him in the community when you're working on any criminal case, but particularly one of this importance."

Bond is a rarity in capital murder cases.

"It's not often, but it can happen," James said. "It's certainly worth a try."

Leonard, who entered the court wearing a white shirt and green tie, was supported by several members of his family. More than half were wearing the same shade of light green, an apparent show of support for the defendant.

The defense has also filed a motion asking the state to declare its intentions to the death penalty.

Duffey said the motion was filed in order to find out whether or not the defense prepares for the penalty phase of the trial.

"If the death penalty is on the table, you've got to prepare for litigation," Duffey said. "If there's a finding of guilt, then you have an immediate trial on the penalty phase, and you have to be ready for it."

A trial in Leonard's case is not expected until sometime next year. At Thursday's arraignment, Treese said the earliest he would be able to try the case would be in the spring, although he doesn't think the prosecution will be ready by then, which could push the case into the summer.

James said the defense could also be ready for a spring trial.

"It's going pretty fast, because it was indicted very quickly," James said. "For a capital murder case, even to be tried within 12 months, that would not be the norm."


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