Christopher Lee had an alibi, and it was enough to deadlock an Orleans Parish jury.
Jurors deliberated into the night Tuesday, but after six hours, they could not agree on whether to convict Lee, 25, of second-degree murder, attempted murder and aggravated battery in an armed break-in nearly six years ago that left a Holy Cross High School graduate dead and a friend wounded.
Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office will retry him, spokesman Christopher Bowman said. Criminal District Court Judge Arthur Hunter set a June 6 date for a new trial.
A different jury last year convicted Lee’s younger brother, Joshua Lee, on the same charges from the same attack. Joshua Lee now is serving a life prison sentence.
The weeklong trial appeared to hinge on whether the jury believed Keisha Sterling, the grandmother of Christopher Lee’s young son. Sterling told the jury that Lee was inside her home in the 9th Ward, wearing pajamas and taking care of his baby boy around the time a group of armed intruders blasted into Chad Huth’s home on Cameron Boulevard in Gentilly.
Huth and his friends had smoked marijuana and were watching the premiere of the HBO series “Treme” in the early morning of April 22, 2010, when there was a knock on the door. A group of armed men was standing on the front porch.
As he and his friends scrambled for safety, Huth was shot once in the back. He was later found dead in a locked bathroom. A friend, Christopher Wells, survived multiple gunshot wounds.
Wells testified that Joshua Lee pointed a gun at his head and pulled the trigger, but it jammed. He said Christopher Lee then shot him in the arm and side.
But Sterling testified Monday that Wells and another friend, Paul Patin, must have mistaken Christopher Lee for someone else when they identified him in a photo lineup and in court.
“I’m just testifying that this child was in my house,” Sterling said. “We used to call Chris ‘Paw Paw.’ He come inside every day when the streetlights come on. He would be inside right before dark, every single night.”
Following Lee’s arrest shortly after Huth’s killing, Sterling said, she recalled he had stayed at her house that night because she remembered having bought a used car that day. The title transfer came later, however, and Sterling said she didn’t have any documents to verify the car purchase occurred that day. She had since sold the car.
Orleans Parish prosecutors Laura Rodrigue and Tiffany Tucker cast Lee’s alibi as a desperate bid to save him from the same fate as his brother.
Public defenders Colin Reingold and Carrie Ellis argued that Sterling had too much to lose by lying for her grandson’s father.
“She’s certainly not going to put herself and her family at risk” by lying, Ellis told the jury during her closing argument. “This is not something she’s come up with. This is something she knew. She was straight-shooting. She was honest.”
Rodrigue pointed out that Lee’s attorneys were asking jurors to trust that Wells and Patin correctly identified Joshua Lee — on whom they pinned the blame for the attack — but doubt that they had actually seen his brother.
It was Patin who got up to answer the door and peered out to see five or six men on the porch. He said he got a good look at the Lee brothers, who he said stood in front of the group before blasting their way inside. Patin scampered to his room for a gun.
Wells testified that he had no doubt that Christopher Lee was the one who fired on him before the men fled.
Lee still awaits trial on charges of attempted murder and attempted armed robbery from an unrelated assault that took place a few weeks later.
Rodrigue said the brothers struck again at the home of a man whose wife and twin infants were in the back. A gunman shot away one of the victim’s biceps, Rodrigue said. His descriptions of his assailants matched the Lee brothers, she told the jury.
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