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Jason Lewis ordered released ahead of Karon Blake trial

Lewis, a longtime D.C. employee, was indicted by a grand jury on second-degree murder charges earlier this month

WASHINGTON — A judge has ordered the release of the man accused of shooting and killing a 13-year-old boy outside his Brookland home in January ahead of his trial next year. Jason Lewis, 41, is charged with second-degree murder while armed for killing Karon Blake on Jan. 7. 

At a pretrial hearing on Thursday, Judge Anthony Epstein said Lewis is not a danger to society or a flight risk and should be released under strict conditions. Prosecutors opposed the release and asked the judge for a "substantial probability" ruling that would keep Lewis behind bars. 

Lewis turned himself in to police and admits to firing the shots that killed Blake, but maintains his innocence by reason of self defense. In a courtroom Thursday, prosecutors played a number of clips from home and business surveillance videos showing the shooting in real time. In the videos, two people, along with Blake, are seen pulling up in a Kia, parking in an alley, getting out of the car and approaching other cars on the street with flashlights. Prosecutors said three cars, including Lewis' car, had damaged windows. His car was parked across the street from his home. 

Prosecutors argued that Lewis left his home and fired one shot toward the Kia parked in the alley, then two more shots at Blake as the 13-year-old was running toward him. According to an arrest warrant, Lewis told police he fired at Blake in self-defense because he was running toward him. Prosecutors argued Thursday that the reason Blake was running in the first place was because Lewis fired his gun. That's when everyone scattered.

"This is not a self-defense case. Up until he fired the first shot, no one was running toward him," the prosecutor said.

Under D.C. law, you can't be your own reason for self-defense, the prosecution argued.

Judge Epstein agreed with prosecutors, pointing out that the first shot toward the Kia was not justified under law, and deadly force cannot be used in defense of property. 

The judge ruled that there was substantial probability that the prosecution would be able to prove Lewis was guilty of second-degree murder, given the evidence presented.

Despite the substantial probability ruling, Epstein said he did not believe Lewis should remain in custody before his trial.

"The defendant is presumed innocent even though a substantial probability has been found," Epstein said. 

Epstein said the prosecution did not prove that Lewis was a danger to society, and there was no clear or compelling evidence that Lewis would act as a vigilante.

He said the fact that when police arrived at the scene of the shooting, Lewis was reportedly giving chest compressions to Blake weighed substantially in his favor. 

Epstein imposed strict conditions for Lewis' release, including the use of GPS monitoring and regular reporting to pre-trial services. Lewis is also prohibited from possessing guns or any weapons. 

Lewis is next expected in court for a status hearing on June 9. The judge scheduled the trial for April 8, 2024. 


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