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By Phil Helsel
A man accused of fatally shooting a 7-year-old girl in Texas late last month in what police have described as a case of mistaken identity is denying that he was involved, his attorney said.
An attorney for Larry D. Woodruffe, 24, one of two men charged with capital murder in the Dec. 30 shooting near Houston that killed Jazmine Barnes, said Thursday that Woodruffe told police he was not involved in the killing, and that the only thing connecting him to the crime is a statement from another man arrested in the case, according to NBC affiliate KPRC of Houston.
“My experience is that people have a big motive to get themselves out of hot water,” attorney Lisa Andrews said. “It is also my experience, after twenty years of doing criminal law on both sides, that shooters don’t give up their gun. And that gun he led the cops to was at his house, not my client’s.”
The other suspect, Eric Black Jr., 20, was charged first in the shooting, and authorities have said he admitted he was the driver of the vehicle from which the shots were fired at the car Jazmine and her family were in at around 6:50 a.m. as they traveled to a store.
The prosecutor said in court this week that Black told officials that another man, at that time only identified as Larry W., opened fire from the front seat. According to court documents, Black told authorities the gun used was at his home and gave them permission to search the property. A 9 mm pistol consistent with shell casings from the shooting scene was found there.
Woodruffe made his first court appearance Thursday in connection with the killing, and did not say anything, KPRC reported.
It does not appear that either man has entered pleas in the case. Online court records indicate arraignments are pending.
A spokesman for the Harris County District Attorney said both are charged with capital murder and face a life sentence or death if convicted. In a statement Tuesday about Woodruffe, the district attorney said a decision whether to seek the death penalty would be made at a later date.
Jazmine’s killing had raised fears that the shooting was racially motivated, after an initial description described the shooter as a white man driving a red pickup truck. Jazmine and the family are black.
The Harris County sheriff has said that authorities have now learned the pickup truck had come to a stop at a red light next to the car Jazmine, her mother and the girl’s three sisters were in, but went in a different direction moments before the shooting.
Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said Sunday, “You’re talking about small children” who witness something very traumatic, and, “It’s very likely that the last thing they did see was that red truck, and the driver that was in that truck.”
Black and Woodruffe, who are both black, were taken into custody in east Harris County on Saturday and the sheriff’s office announced Sunday that a capital murder charge was filed against Black.
Woodruffe was arrested on a felony drug possession charge and the sheriff’s office announced on Tuesday that a capital murder charge was filed against him in Jazmine’s death.
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Andrews, Woodruffe’s attorney, also filed a motion seeking a change of venue, saying that due to the “enormous notoriety” of the case Woodruffe cannot get a fair trial in Harris County.
Tom Berg, first assistant district attorney for the county, said Woodruffe could get a fair trial.
“By the time this case comes to trial, we expect to be able to draw a fair panel and get a fair jury for a fair trial,” Berg told reporters.