MIAMI – A Miami man accused of shooting up a convenience store in April faced 20 years or more in prison — until he saw the surveillance video being used as evidence against him.
The face that Darnell Palmer spotted on the video his defense attorney sent him to review was his half-brother, who resembles him, the Miami Herald reported.
The evidence had stacked up against Palmer, attorney Scott Saul told the newspaper. His client frequented the North Miami Beach store, owned a gun and the car used by the shooter was traced back to Palmer's mother. Still, Saul said, Palmer insisted he didn't do it.
Saul filed a motion with Miami-Dade Circuit Court on June 30, arguing that the arrest was a case of mistaken identity and noting that Palmer had identified the man in the store video as his half-brother. He included photographs of the two men in the filing.
On Aug. 7, prosecutors dropped all charges.
Saul said Palmer was relieved after spending three weeks in jails and months on house arrest.
“If I didn’t get the information about the brother, this poor guy would have gone to trial and he would have been guilty in a heartbeat,” Saul said. “It just goes to show you that sometimes the evidence is overwhelming even if you’re innocent.”
Ed Griffith, a spokesperson for the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office said in an emailed statement that the case was dropped because it “could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt due to an issue relating to the identification of the charged defendant.”
Palmer was arrested on an attempted first-degree murder charge in the April 26 incident. The video surveillance footage from the store shows a man leaving the store after arguing with a clerk about cigar prices, then pulling out a gun and firing a shot at the storefront before driving off.
Saul got the charges lowered to shooting into an occupied dwelling and aggravated assault with a firearm before they were eventually dropped, the newspaper reported.
When Palmer first told him about his half-brother, Saul said he found a mug shot of him online and understood why police and prosecutors could make the mistake. “They could practically be twins,” he said.