Two years ago today, 31-year-old Corey Jones lost his life in a deadly roadside confrontation with a Palm Beach Gardens police officer in plain clothes — a case that prosecutors are hoping could bring a rare criminal conviction for an officer involved in an on-duty killing.
But as Jones’ family and supporters spend the day remembering the beloved drummer and planning weekend events to honor his memory, attorneys for Nouman Raja are hoping a judge will let them examine the evidence in his upcoming manslaughter and attempted murder trial outside the view of prosecutors.
Defense attorney Richard Lubin in court records last week asked Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer to give the now former police officer’s legal team time to examine evidence in the case privately with an expert witness whose name they want to keep out of the public eye.
Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg charged Raja in Jones’ death in June 2016 after a months-long police and FBI investigation concluded and a Palm Beach County grand jury decided Raja was unjustified in his shooting of Jones.
Jones was in his car in the off-ramp of Interstate 95 at PGA Boulevard calling for a tow truck to help with his broken-down car when Raja drove up on him in an unmarked police van and shot Jones three times after a brief confrontation. Jones, who by day worked as a housing manager for the Delray Beach Housing Authority, died at the scene.
Raja said he identified himself as a police officer when he approached Jones and only fired after Jones charged at him with a gun. Prosecutors were able to obtain a recording of Jones’ roadside call, which captured the entire exchange. They say shows Raja never identified himself and opened fire on Jones unprovoked.
Lubin and the rest of the legal team for Raja, who Gardens police later terminated, are hoping to dispute those claims at a trial in the case currently scheduled for April. In his request filed last week, Lubin said he asked prosecutors to allow Raja and the defense team to look over all the evidence in the case privately, but Chief Assistant State Attorneys Brian Fernandes and Adrienne Ellis disagreed.
“Their position as stated in an email that they can stand ‘far enough away so as not to overhear any conversations amongst defense counsel and their investigator.’” Lubin wrote. “This arrangement is plainly insufficient given the size of the room and the ability of the prosecution to also observe which evidence the defense is the most interested, as well as their expert consultant.”
Lubin does not specifically list which evidence the defense team wants to look over, but FBI and other officials spent months pouring over evidence that included parts of the crime scene, the unfired handgun that Jones had purchased just three days before his death and other items.
Allowing prosecutors to be there while they examine the evidence would violate Raja’s right against self-incrimination as well as his right for a just criminal process, Lubin wrote.
Prosecutors had not responded to Lubin’s request to Feuer as of late Tuesday, and Feuer has not yet set a hearing date on the issue.