COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A man who spent nearly seven years awaiting trial for murder in South Carolina has been exonerated after testifying in his own defense that he gave police the name and address of the person who committed the crime.
The jury found Jeffrey Keezel, 28, not guilty of murder in the shooting of another man in a car in an Orangeburg parking lot in 2014. They also acquitted him of armed robbery and a weapons charge during his trial this month, defense attorney Carl B. Grant said.
Keezel testified he was in the parking lot of the hotel where 30-year-old Ricardo “Sisco” Sprinkle was shot in September 2014, Grant said.
Keezel said he didn’t shoot Sprinkle, whose house he visited when hanging out with Sprinkle’s brothers. Keezel told the same thing to investigators at the time of the killing, Grant said.
Keezel gave police the name and other identifying information about the person who killed Sprinkle both on the stand and in a nearly hour-long interview with police before Grant was hired as his lawyer, but no additional arrests have been made, the defense lawyer said.
Investigators collected fingerprints and DNA from blood at the scene, but that evidence was not presented during the trial.
Grant said he asked the jury if they could find Keezel guilty beyond a reasonable doubt when prosecutors didn’t question Keezel’s testimony about a second person at the scene.
“In my closing argument, I told the jury, ‘well maybe when the prosecutor gets up here he’ll explain what happened to the DNA or fingerprints,’” Grant said.
The key piece of evidence for prosecutors was the gun used to kill Sprinkle, which was found in Keezel’s house. But Keezel testified that after the other man killed Sprinkle, he put the gun in Keezel’s face and told him to take it and hide it or he would kill his family too, Grant said.
The prosecutor in the case declined to talk about it to The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg.
The Orangeburg Public Safety Department investigated the case. Officials did not respond to questions about whether they would reopen it.
Keezel was on house arrest for the nearly seven years he waited to go to trial, but could work. Grant said he has two jobs and is married with five children.
“He was so elated when the verdict was read, he actually broke down and cried. I got just a tad bit emotional myself,” said Grant, who three weeks before defended a man found not guilty of murder in Beaufort County.