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Double Murder Charges Dismissed; Oakland Man Freed After 5 Years In Jail

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- An Oakland man who's been in custody without bail for nearly five years will be set free after charges were dismissed on Monday in a case in which he was charged with two counts of murder.

Kyle Puckett, 31, had been scheduled to stand trial a fourth time on charges stemming from the shooting deaths of Raymond Greenwood, 20, of Oroville, and Joshua Crouseite, 22, of Fairfield, in the courtyard of an apartment complex in the 1300 block of MacArthur Boulevard at about 11:40 p.m. on Oct. 15, 2011, in what prosecutors said was a marijuana deal that went bad.

But Alameda County prosecutor Butch Ford moved on Monday to dismiss the charges against Puckett. Judge Kevin Murphy, who presided over two of Puckett's three trials, which all resulted in mistrials, granted the motion.

Puckett's attorney Ernie Castillo, who has been involved in numerous serious murder cases, said the dismissal of the charges against Puckett is "the sweetest victory of my career."

Castillo said Puckett "has missed a lot of years" since he was arrested on March 19, 2015, but will be going home to his fiancee, son and mother later Monday.

"I feel blessed that everything's finally all over," said Zipporah Cheng, Puckett's fiancee. She can't believe after three trials and five years that Puckett is coming home.

"It means everything to me. I feel like ever since I found out that he was locked up, I felt like I've had a broken family. Now, my son doesn't have to see his dad through a piece of glass anymore," Cheng cried.

Castillo said Puckett doesn't have a prior criminal record and has maintained his innocence since Castillo started representing him.

"From the first day I met Kyle, he maintained his innocence the whole time. He refused to take a deal, he wanted to go to trial in this case to prove his innocence," Castillo said.

The shooting deaths of Greenwood and Crouseite remained unsolved for about three and a half years until authorities arrested Puckett and another man, 26-year-old Deshawn Rico, on March 19, 2015.

Ford, who prosecuted Puckett at all three of his trials, alleges that Greenwood and Crouseite had a suitcase full of marijuana and that Puckett shot them both as he and Rico sought to steal the marijuana from them.

Rico was also charged with two counts of murder but pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter in 2016, shortly before Puckett's first trial began, and was sentenced to 11 years in state prison.

Puckett's first trial in 2016 ended in a mistrial after jurors deadlocked 8-4 in favor of acquitting him and his second trial ended in a mistrial on July 23, 2018, after jurors deadlocked 11-1 in favor of convicting him.

Puckett's third trial ended last Oct. 29 with another deadlocked jury and mistrial.

Castillo said jurors deadlocked 6-6 on whether Puckett should be convicted of first-degree murder and 7-5 in favor of convicting him of second-degree murder.

But Castillo said all of the jurors in Puckett's third trial agreed that there was insufficient evidence to prove that he was the man who shot Greenwood and Crouseite.

He said the jurors who voted to convict Puckett of second-degree murder based their votes on their belief that he was an accomplice in the shooting or may have planned it.

Ford didn't respond to a request to comment on his decision to move to dismiss the charges against Puckett.

KPIX 5's Andrea Nakano contributed to this report.

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