An Orleans Parish jury apparently didn’t buy the testimony of two witnesses who may have had something to gain by implicating 24-year-old Karnell Dowl in the 2011 murder of Prentis Ronquillo as he sat in a car in New Orleans East.
After a two-day trial at Criminal District Court, the jury deliberated for less than three hours before acquitting Dowl on a second-degree murder count in the killing.
Ronquillo, 23, was found suffering from multiple gunshot wounds inside his car in the 4600 block of Werner Drive on Sept. 25, 2011. Police found no gun and no DNA, only 20 spent 9mm shell casings at the scene.
A few months later, after detectives dug through Ronquillo’s phone, a man who lived in front of the shooting scene, Josh Horn, acknowledged that he had called Ronquillo over to his house before the shooting.
Horn identified Dowl as the shooter who ran out from behind an abandoned house and opened fire on Ronquillo.
Later, another man, Roan Hart, who had landed in jail on a burglary charge, told police that Dowl revealed to him that he’d killed Ronquillo in retaliation for the August 2011 murder of 22-year-old Benny Hamilton, taking “a brother for a brother.” Dowl and Hamilton were co-defendants in a 2007 armed robbery case that ended with guilty pleas by both. The murder of Hamilton, whose body was found riddled with bullets in an abandoned park in New Orleans East, apparently remains unsolved. According to a report at the time on nola.com, Hamilton was found shot in the back, arms, leg and abdomen while gripping crack cocaine in one hand.
Dowl’s attorneys, Thomas Shlosman and Nandi Campbell, argued that Horn, who claimed he saw Ronquillo’s murder from his porch, fingered Dowl only after police found that he and Ronquillo had spoken by phone just before the murder.
They played up the fact that police apparently never investigated Horn for the murder, and they claimed Hart saw an opportunity to help himself when he spotted Dowl’s name as a wanted man on a police computer screen after his arrest. All of the men knew each other, Shlosman said.
“There was no physical evidence, and their witnesses were not credible witnesses. The detectives didn’t do a very thorough investigation. Fingerprints in the car were never processed,” Shlosman said after the verdict. “The jury got it right.”
Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office, did not respond to a request for comment on the verdict.
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