Qualls wants murder case dropped

Hakim Zamir Lamar Qualls

MICHIGAN CITY – It’s been nearly a month since a mistrial was declared in the murder case against Hakim Zamir Lamar Qualls.

And although his new trial is set to begin Jan. 27, Qualls – who was released on GPS monitoring upon mistrial – will return to La Porte Superior Court 1 on Thursday to ask whether his case should be dismissed entirely.

The defense filed a motion Friday asserting that Qualls’ case should be dismissed on the basis that to try it again would violate the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment.

Defense attorney Elizabeth Flynn also contends in a memorandum of law filed last week that prosecutors and their professional witness acted in concert to goad Qualls into requesting a mistrial “to subvert the protects afforded by the Double Jeopardy Clause.”

The mistrial was declared after state witness Jillian Ashley – now assistant chief of the Michigan City Police Department, but a detective when she investigated the alleged murder – divulged information to the jury that the judge had previously deemed inadmissible.

Specifically, she testified that Qualls had not provided a statement to police upon his arrest, despite having made a claim of self-defense in relation to the Dec. 18, 2018, fatal shooting of 18-year-old Dareon Brown.

Her doing so prompted the defense to request a mistrial, which was granted on Dec. 17, 2019.

The same day, prosecutors filed a motion to add two additional charges – attempted murder and aggravated battery – to the counts of murder and dangerous possession of a firearm that Qualls already faced.

In their request that new charges be added, prosecutors cite information they admittedly gleaned from the defense’s opening statement and witness testimony at the first trial:

“a. Defense indicated the victim Dareon Brown's gun 'clattered away,' the Defendant picked it up and fled the area."

“b. Physical evidence shows that Dareon Brown was shot with his own gun twice.”

"Under Indiana law, retrial following a defendant's successful mistrial motion is only barred where the government's conduct is responsible for the mistrial motion,” Flynn writes in her memorandum.

And she notes it was Ashley, acting in her capacity as a professional witness for the state, who caused the mistrial.

"The State did not object to this Court's decision to grant a mistrial,” Flynn states. “The State immediately, on the same date that the mistrial was rendered, filed a Motion to Amend the Information to add new charges of Attempted Murder and Aggravated Battery. The State has further engaged in additional investigation for what appears to be for the purposes of discrediting the Defendant's version of events which was shared during the Defendant's opening statement. The State is attempting to benefit from its own misconduct and the egregious misconduct of its witness."

Flynn also takes issue with having allowed Ashley to investigate a case in which the alleged victim was her nephew. The defense contends that it provides Ashley with a personal stake in the outcome of the case.

Judge Michael Bergerson will conduct a hearing on the defense’s motion to dismiss and the state’s request that Qualls be charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery on Thursday during criminal call, which begins at 8:30 a.m. in Superior Court 1.

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