A man accused of opening fire on Canal Street in broad daylight Wednesday told investigators he knew his victim from jail, according to an arrest warrant.
New Orleans police allege that 24-year-old Justin Lewis shot an unnamed victim in the face shortly after 2:30 p.m. in the 800 block of Canal Street.
Video obtained by WWL-TV shows two men passing each other on the street. The man identified as Lewis pulls out a gun after what appears to be an exchange of words and starts shooting, sending bystanders diving for cover.
Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell ordered Lewis held on $320,000 bail for the shooting and a separate May 2014 incident in which police said he fled on foot after being stopped in a stolen vehicle with a stolen handgun.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Henn, speaking in court Thursday, noted that the video shows Lewis shooting toward the 24-year-old victim several more times as he backed away.
After being stopped by a state trooper who had been flagged down by a bystander, Lewis was identified by three witnesses as the assailant, according to the warrant.
?Warning: This video contains graphic images.
Once Lewis was pulled in for questioning, he told detectives that he knew the victim from “spending time with him in jail,” Henn said. Lewis said he felt threatened because the victim “had his hands in his pockets,” according to the warrant.
No one spoke for Lewis in court. Leon Roche, a staff attorney for Orleans Public Defenders, said his office does not intend to represent him because of an ongoing budget crunch. OPD has said it will no longer take on new cases involving serious charges until it receives additional funding.
Other judges have ordered public defenders to represent defendants for their first appearances, but Cantrell made no such move Thursday.
“As a policy, we have been refusing the appointment and the subsequent bond hearing,” said Lindsey Hortenstine, a spokesperson for OPD. “It has depended on what the judge did, and each one seems to have a different reaction. If forced to, we’ll do the first appearance hearing.”
Although most phases of criminal proceedings are supposed to be adversarial — meaning that someone is arguing each side of a case — initial bond hearings do not require a defense attorney under the Constitution, according to Loyola University law professor Dane Ciolino.
“There’s no constitutional requirement that there be a lawyer at the setting of the initial bond,” Ciolino said. “Obviously, something needs to be solved. The problem needs to be solved.”