An attorney for accused gunman Desmonte D. Leonard said today that his case "really isn't about football," even though two former Auburn University football players and one current one were among Saturday's shooting victims. But that won't stop the defense from trying to move the case far away from Tiger country.
"We've got to get it out of Lee County," attorney Susan G. James said, adding she had qualms about Leonard being held even temporarily in the Lee County Detention Facility. “It's pretty much an Auburn town.”
James, a well-known attorney from Montgomery, Ala., was appointed to represent Leonard, the man accused of fatally shooting Ed Christian, Ladarious Phillips and Demario Pitts and wounding three others at an apartment complex near campus. In his first court appearance since surrendering to law enforcement, Leonard, 22, said little during a brief hearing in Lee County District Court, and could hardly be heard in some of his responses to Judge Russell K. Bush.
Today's hearing revealed no new details about the shootings, aside from Leonard's indigence, and was dominated by a solemn silence. Lawmen lined the courtroom and hushed the gallery several minutes before Bush entered. Leonard, dressed in a black T-shirt and sagging jeans, was unshackled only to sign an advisement of rights form.
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"He's fine, under the circumstances," said Denise A. Simmons, a James firm attorney who stood in for her today. "He's a young man that's just in a situation right now."
Simmons said the defense team likely will request a preliminary hearing within 30 days. No bail has been set, and Leonard has not yet entered a plea.
James arranged Tuesday for Leonard to surrender to U.S. Marshals, and drove him to the federal courthouse in Montgomery, ending a three-day manhunt. In an interview Tuesday, she said she had still been considering whether to take the case.
James has worked several high-profile cases. She defended former Gov. Don E. Siegelman and recently represented a defendant in Alabama's bingo corruption trial. Jeffery C. Duffey of Montgomery is to join her as co-counsel in the Leonard case.