Judge rules mistrial for man charged with killing Md. transgender woman

WASHINGTON — After three days of deliberation, a Montgomery County jury could not reach a unanimous verdict in the murder trial of Rico LeBlond, who was charged with the October 2015 shooting of a longtime friend.

Prosecutors had told jurors that LeBlond, 20, shot Zella Ziona, 21, in an alley behind a Gaithersburg shopping center.

LeBlond was charged with first-degree murder, which carries a statutory maximum of life in prison in Maryland.

Ziona and LeBlond had known each other since middle school.

According to prosecutors, LeBlond was embarrassed when Ziona, a transgender woman, flirted with him in front of his male friends.

Prosecutors Patrick Mays and Tim Hagan said LeBlond shot Ziona, who was born DeAndre Smith.

But according to defense attorney David Felsen, police gave “substantially different descriptions of the person or people with guns, who were fleeing the scene.”

“There was substantial evidence on both sides, pointing in other directions other than that of Mr. LeBlond,” he said.

Jurors were deadlocked at 10—2, in favor of conviction, according to sources, when Circuit Judge Anne Albright declared a mistrial.

“We’re disappointed the jury wasn’t able to come to a unanimous decision for acquittal,” said Felsen, but he and his client “appreciate the jury’s service.”

The state’s attorney’s office plans to try the case again.

“We believe that we will obtain a guilty verdict in the next trial,” said Ramon Korionoff, a spokesman for the Montgomery County Sate’s Attorney’s Office.


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