Up until Thursday, Morris Sales faced the death penalty for the wild 2007 mass shooting at a Little River block party that killed a bystander.
But Sales will walk free in a matter of days after pleading guilty Thursday, agreeing to what amounts to credit for the seven years he has been behind bars while awaiting trial. The reason: The state’s case suffered tremendously after the defense punched holes in the stories of the informants on which the case was built.
“We shredded the credibility of the snitch witnesses,” said Miami defense attorney David S. Markus.
Said co-counsel Scott Sakin: “It’s amazing you can go from verge of the death penalty to walking out of jail the next day.”
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Sales, 31, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the killing of Keyon Donaldson. A second defendant, Lincoln Edwin, is awaiting trial.
The wild shooting was one of several highly visible ambush-style gang attacks that plagued North Miami-Dade in 2007.
According to police, Sales and Edwin were looking to kill two gangsters known as “Little Collie” and “Boo” for the shooting death of Kenneth “Kenny Dread” Smith. He was the nephew of notorious drug lord Cory Smith, leader of the John Does gang that spread havoc in Liberty City in the 1990s.
The scene: a block party in the 7500 block of Northwest 11th Avenue. A children’s birthday party was happening next door.
The gunmen, wielding assault rifles, parked nearby, got out and opened fire — killing Donaldson and wounding four others. Horrified onlookers, including children, ran for cover.
Miami-Dade detectives traced the rental car used by the gunmen, finding a Gatorade bottle inside with DNA matching Sales. He was a convicted drug peddler whose father served 10 years in prison for second-degree murder.
But the car was not found until four days later. For prosecutors, that meant it was difficult to prove when Sales was inside the car.
A federal inmate told police he was with Sales and Edwin when they committed the crime. He later recanted. The only remaining witness was a jailhouse informant who claimed Sales admitted to the crime while behind bars — but his credibility was weakened during defense depositions.