Bail lowered for man charged in Phoenix freeway shootings

PHOENIX (AP) -- A judge has lowered the bail for a man charged in several freeway shootings that put drivers in metro Phoenix on edge two months ago.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Warren Granville reduced Leslie Merritt Jr.'s $1 million bond to $150,000 after his lawyers made an alibi claim that wasn't considered by the court that set his original bond.

Defense attorneys wanted to call witnesses to showcase their alibi claim, but Granville didn't allow testimony.

The judge says he didn't want potential jurors to be influenced by such testimony.

Authorities say they used ballistic tests to tie the 21-year-old to four of the 11 shootings on freeways between Aug. 22 and Sept. 10.

The investigation into the other shootings remains open.

Merritt has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

A judge is scheduled to hold a hearing Monday over a request by a man charged in several freeway shootings in metro Phoenix that he should be released from jail based on his claim that he has an alibi.

Lawyers for Leslie Merritt Jr. are expected to call family members to testify and underscore phone records that they say prove their client wasn't near the crime scenes. They say Merritt's fiancee will testify that he was at their Glendale home when the shootings occurred.

Authorities say they used ballistic tests to tie the 21-year-old to four of the 11 shootings that occurred on freeways between Aug. 22 and Sept. 10. The investigation into the other shootings remains open.

No one was seriously injured after eight cars were hit with bullets and three were struck with projectiles such as BBs or pellets, mostly along Interstate 10. The only injury was to a 13-year-old girl whose ear was cut by glass.

Prosecutors who cast doubt on Merritt's alibi claim have urged the judge to keep his bail at $1 million.

They say there's no reliable evidence to justify changing his bond and that Merritt's fiancee told police that she wasn't sure about Merritt's whereabouts on the day in question.

Merritt, who insists police arrested the wrong person, has pleaded not guilty to drive-by shooting, aggravated assault and other charges.

Defense lawyers have said that Merritt's fiancee will testify that the couple spent most of Aug. 29 with their two children, except for a 15-minute period long before the shootings in which she went to a store.

They say phone records will show their client called his grandmother from his home just minutes before two of the shootings on Aug. 29. They also say Merritt was at home asleep during at least one of the two remaining freeway shootings he is charged with.

It's unknown whether Merritt's cellphone calls were made from Glendale or from a number registered to a Glendale address.

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