Ex-suspect freed after 3 years by separate confession
A 27-year-old man, who spent nearly three years in jail on accusations that he gunned down an Internet star called Messy Mya, was freed from Orleans Parish Prison on Friday and absolved in the killing.
Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office on Friday dismissed the second-degree murder charge against Jason Hamilton, after evidence of his innocence mounted and another man allegedly confessed to the crime.
Anthony Barre, 22, was known online as street comic and bounce rapper Messy Mya, distinctive with his trademark purple hair. He roasted his acquaintances in YouTube videos, poking fun of strangers at the mall and holding forth, talking into the camera, as he walked down New Orleans streets.
He was shot dead on Nov. 14, 2010, in the 7th Ward as he left a baby shower with his pregnant girlfriend.
His murder went viral on Twitter and YouTube, complete with a snapshot of his dead body lying face-down in a pool of blood.
Hamilton was arrested the following week at a hospital in Jefferson Parish where he’d sought treatment for his bipolar disorder. Hamilton, a Delgado Community College student, reportedly threatened to kill a fellow student.
To prove he’d do it, he reportedly warned that person he’d killed Messy Mya.
His attorney, Martin Regan, said Friday that Hamilton was in a haze of mental illness when he made that bogus threat.
News accounts at the time said a witness on the scene of Messy Mya’s killing told police that they saw Hamilton there, clutching a gun and promising to hurt the Internet celebrity.
Hamilton was booked with second-degree murder, facing an automatic life sentence if found guilty as charged.
The criminal case against him stalled for months as questions arose about his mental competency to stand trial. He was medicated and stabilized, and a trial was set to begin last fall.
But it ground to halt before starting when a court clerk abruptly confessed that she’d seen a video of the shooting online.
Prosecutors and Hamilton’s defense attorney scrambled to find the films. The search failed, and the video, if it ever existed, never resurfaced.
By then, Hamilton’s mental state had steadied. He finally recalled that he’d been 50 miles away, on a college campus in Hammond, when Messy Mya was killed.
Two friends who’d been with him supported his alibi, and his attorney fetched cellphone records to prove it too.
Regan presented that information to the court earlier this summer, and Hamilton’s trial stalled again.
Then the federal government presented an unexpected twist.
Last week, federal investigators informed the state that another man confessed to the killing, Regan said.
A man being questioned in connection to another, unrelated crime admitted that he killed Messy Mya. Federal investigators compared his gun to the bullets used to slay Barre. They matched, Regan said.
Prosecutors on Friday dismissed the murder charge against Hamilton and Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Frank Marullo ordered his release from Orleans Parish Prison.
“This young man has had a long road,” Regan said. “He’s now adequately medicated, and he’s just a great kid.”
Hamilton had no prior convictions.
The District Attorney stopped short of calling him innocent.
“In the course of preparing the case against Jason Hamilton for trial, the District Attorney’s Office discovered evidence that made it impossible to prove the case,” was all spokesman Christopher Bowman would say.
He would not comment on whether they received information from the federal government about another man’s confession, or whether anybody else might be charged with the killing.
The New Orleans Police Department, reached late Friday afternoon, also could not say whether the investigation has been reopened or if they’ve been working with the feds on catching the killer.
A spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation did not return a call requesting details on the alleged confession, or possible charges resulting from it.
Hamilton, meanwhile, was set free from jail Friday afternoon, Regan said. He went home after nearly three years in prison for a barbecue with his family.
Regan said Hamilton plans to return to college.