Arizona Governor Avoids Deposition In Case Involving Freeway Attacks

By Claire Caulfield
Published: Friday, July 27, 2018 - 9:17am
Updated: Friday, July 27, 2018 - 9:23am
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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey.
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office
Leslie Allen Merritt Jr.

Gov. Doug Ducey has avoided giving a deposition in a false-arrest lawsuit filed by a man once charged in some of the freeway shootings that set metro Phoenix on edge for weeks during the summer of 2015.

Lawyers for plaintiff Leslie Merritt Jr. wanted to question Ducey about his calls with Department of Public Safety Director Frank Milstead around the time of the arrest.

The lawyers wanted to gauge Milstead's demeanor at the time of the calls and determine if he had mentioned that Merritt's gun was at a pawn shop at the time of the last shooting.

Merritt's attorneys have argued that Ducey inserted himself in the now-dismissed criminal case when he triumphantly tweeted, "We got him!" minutes after the landscaper was arrested. Merritt insisted he was innocent but spent seven months in jail before his release.

U.S. District Judge David Campbell ruled Wednesday that Merritt's lawyers aren't likely to get valuable information about Milstead's demeanor from the calls.

Instead, Campbell said Merritt's attorneys could seek the information from other people who worked on the investigation.

Ducey's lawyers have said the Department of Public Safety kept the governor informed of the investigation, but Ducey didn't participate in decisions and let authorities do their jobs. They argued there were no extraordinary circumstances to justify a deposition of Ducey.

The criminal case against Merritt was dismissed after an expert said the Department of Public Safety's crime lab incorrectly concluded that ballistic evidence linked Merritt's gun to four of the 11 shootings in late August and early September of 2015.

His lawsuit accuses state crime lab workers of telling detectives that they were sure Merritt's handgun was used in four of the shootings. It also alleges that prosecutors misled grand jurors about the reliability of the ballistics evidence.

Attorneys for the state, Maricopa County and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery have denied those allegations.

No one was seriously injured when eight cars were hit with bullets and three others were struck with projectiles such as BBs or pellets. The only injury occurred when the ear of a 13-year-old girl was cut by glass.

No one else has been arrested in the case. Then investigation remains open.

Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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