Judge Thomas Motley ruled Tuesday that there was “barely” probable cause to send the second-degree murder case against Lloyd Bright to a Grand Jury.
Bright is suspected of killing Darryl Eugene Sweet, Sr., in July.
“I find, barely, probable cause, but that’s the bare bones, counselor,” Motley told Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Bradford Tuesday.
“[But] there’s no way in the world I would find it beyond a reasonable doubt,” he added, referring to the legal level of certainty required to convict someone of a crime.
In the preliminary hearing, which began Monday, prosecutors showed surveillance tape from outside Minnesota Seafood, 3847 Minnesota Avenue, N.E., from the night of July 26, 2012. The footage is poor quality and at times goes completely white, but prosecutors say it shows Bright hitting Sweet and Sweet falling to the ground.
An initial report from the medical examiner determined that Sweet died of blunt force trauma to the head and ruled the manner of death a homicide.
Prosecutors say Bright and Sweet were arguing over money that Sweet owed to someone else and that Bright hit Sweet because he felt like Sweet was disrespecting him, and that he intended to cause injury.
But defense attorney Janet Mitchell argued that Bright slapped Sweet with an open palm and that he couldn’t have known that slapping him once would cause him to fall to the ground, hit his head and, ultimately, die.
It’s unclear from the video footage whether Bright slapped Sweet with an open palm or hit him with the more intense force of a closed fist.
To be convicted of second-degree murder, the government must prove that a person acted with intent to cause death or serious bodily injury or conscious disregard of the extreme risk of death or serious bodily injury.
The government is still waiting for final autopsy results from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, which will include a toxicology report. Prosectors allege that both Bright and Sweet were intoxicated the night of the altercation.
The government offered Bright a plea deal, but he has declined it. A status hearing for Bright has been scheduled for Jan. 25 at 11:00 a.m. before Judge Herbert Dixon Jr.
Sam Pearson contributed reporting.