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Judge rules against loosening house arrest restrictions on ex-police officer in shooting case

Tribune News Service logo Tribune News Service 2/9/2019 By Marc Freeman, Sun Sentinel
a man sitting on a bed: Clinton Jones holds a portrait of his late son Corey Jones, who was shot and killed by Officer Nouman Raja, in Pompano Beach, Fla., in January 2017. © Jim Rassol/Sun Sentinel/TNS Clinton Jones holds a portrait of his late son Corey Jones, who was shot and killed by Officer Nouman Raja, in Pompano Beach, Fla., in January 2017.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - The former police officer charged in the 2015 shooting death of stranded motorist Corey Jones won't get to go shopping for new suits before jury selection for his nationally-televised trial starts Feb. 21.

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Joseph Marx denied a request Friday to ease house arrest restrictions for Nouman Raja. He's been allowed to drive to work and put gas in his car, mow his grass and sit on his patio for his kids' birthday parties.

But this week, Raja sought special permission to take two, 90-minute clothes shopping trips, make an hourlong appointment at a credit union, shop at Publix, visit his father's grave, pick up his young children after school, make extensive repairs to the outside of his house and more.

"This is approximately the ninth time the defense has tried to nibble at the house arrest, I want this condition, I want that condition," Marx said. "I'm just telling you right now, we're 12 days from the start of the trial, I'm not messing with this."

Since Raja's arrest on June 1, 2016, he's been allowed to stay on house arrest as a condition of a $250,000 bond. There are two charges: manslaughter by culpable negligence while armed, and attempted first-degree murder with a firearm.

Plans are moving ahead for the lawyers and the judge to find a jury of six people plus four alternates from a pool of more than 200 prospects.

The potential jurors initially will be screened on their ability to participate in a lengthy trial and whether they have been exposed to extensive media coverage of the case.

Just in case it becomes impossible to pick a jury, the defense announced that Monday it will file a request to move the trial elsewhere.

Attorney Richard Lubin said he has an obligation to make the request, even though everyone hopes the jurors will come from Palm Beach County. The law forbids change of venue requests unless lawyers formally ask at least 10 days before a trial.

The issue caught prosecutors off-guard. Assistant State Attorney Brian Fernandes called it premature since, "We haven't even tried to pick a jury."

The judge also set more ground rules Friday for the expected two to three week trial. This includes preventing the prosecution and the defense from calling expert witnesses in the areas of police practices and police use of force.

Marx said he's lost sleep over these issues and finally decided the trial must focus on the facts of the case and not outside opinions about police work.

The judge said he's intent on holding a fair trial, which includes giving the Jones and Raja families an equal number of seats in the courtroom. Marx announced that Court TV will broadcast every day of the trial and it will be streamed online for those who can't attend.

The shooting happened at 3:15 a.m. Oct. 18, 2015, beside an Interstate 95 off-ramp, after Raja had driven an unmarked van up to Jones' broken down SUV. Within seconds, the plainclothes officer fired six shots from his personal handgun, hitting Jones three times.

Raja had been working a car burglary patrol in the area that night. Jones, a drummer for a reggae band, was in need of roadside assistance after a gig.

Raja claims the shooting was justified because he identified himself as a cop and found himself threatened at gunpoint.

But prosecutors contend that Raja lied about what happened, in his 911 call and in his statements to investigators about four hours after the shooting.

Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com

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