Man gets new trial in murder of Detroit nightclub guard

Carl Bruner was sentenced to life in prison for the killing of Detroit 300 member Marcel Jackson, 39, in June 2012. Bruner was sentenced at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit on Monday, Jan. 5, 2014. He maintains his innocence, saying in court, “I’m being framed for this crime,” adding that he grew up with the Jackson family. He said he plans to appeal.

One of the men convicted in the murder of a security guard outside a Detroit nightclub seven years ago has had his life sentence vacated and been granted a new trial by the Michigan Supreme Court.

The ruling last week by the state's highest court clears the way for the new trial for 34-year-old Carl Rene Bruner II, who had been found guilty in the fatal shooting of Marcel Jackson, 39, at a downtown Detroit nightclub on June 20, 2012.

Jackson, the owner of a Southfield-based security company, was working as a security guard at the Pandemonium nightclub on Congress where Bruner was ejected by security guards after following an altercation.

Jackson, a married father of six, was a member of the Detroit 300 crime-fighting group.

At issue in the court's ruling was a witness who testified during the preliminary examination for Bruner's co-defendant, Michael Lawson, but was not available during Bruner's trial. Instead, his statements were read into the record.

Bruner's appellate attorney David Moffitt says the defense was not given the opportunity to cross-examine the witness which, the court ruled, violated Bruner's Sixth Amendment right to confront his accuser in court.

During Lawson's preliminary examination, the witness referred to Bruner as "Blank"  and testified that Bruner had a gun and planned to come back to shoot Jackson and another security guard.

Authorities allege Bruner was the trigger man and Lawson drove the car Bruner rode in. Bruner maintained at trial that he was not at the shooting and was misidentified. 

Jackson died from his wounds; the other security guard, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, was not injured. 

 Moffitt said no new trial date has been set but that he plans to file a motion to have his client released on bond. He said Bruner feels "vindicated" by the court's actions.

"He's maintained his innocence all along," Moffitt said Friday. Moffitt called the prosecution's case against Bruner "ambiguously circumstantial."

"During an appellate review, I saw many aspects of the police investigation that just as easily had the strong potential to point to other suspects other than Mr. Bruner and Mr. Lawson," the attorney said.

Bruner was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder, assault with intent to commit murder, felon in possession of a firearm and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. He was sentenced as a fourth-offense habitual offender  to life in prison for the murder count and to lesser terms for the other counts.

Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Maria Miller, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office, said Wednesday her office is reviewing its next options.

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