Shooting suspect released after trial-date error, TV station reports

A Pine Bluff man accused in the shooting of a convenience store clerk in October 2012 has been released from jail because of an error in setting his trial date, Little Rock television station KATV reported Friday.

Michael Merritt, 20, was arrested in connection with the shooting of a clerk during an attempted robbery at the A&Y Shell convenience store at 3110 S. Camden Road in Pine Bluff on Oct. 18, 2012. The clerk was in critical condition after the shooting.

A police spokesman said the suspect entered the store, attempted to make a purchase, then pulled out a firearm and shot the clerk. The suspect ran behind the counter and unsuccessfully tried to get into the cash register, according to the police spokesman, then fled the store running east. Merritt was arrested the next day.

KATV quoted Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter as saying that because Merritt’s trial date was set for Oct. 23 — exceeding the nine-month limit for a “speedy trial” — Merritt has been released from jail.

KATV reported that Hunter said the error should have been caught by his staff.

“We would hope that our deputy prosecutors that work in that division would have caught that, but that did not happen in this case,” Hunter said, according to KATV. “In this instance it was not caught and the nine months passed by the time anyone had noticed.”