Judge questions evidence in Eastern Cherokee murder case
A member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina is set to go to trial on a murder charge but a federal judge says the man might have acted in self-defense.

James Ernest Lespier, 32, pleaded not guilty to murder and use of a firearm in a crime of violence. He is accused of shooting his girlfriend, Erien Amanda Smith, 22, at his home on the reservation on May 18.

Magistrate Judge Dennis Howell set an August 9 trial date, The Asheville Citizen Times reported. But Howell said the evidence indicates Lespier and Smith engaged in a struggle after Smith produced a gun and fired it at Lespier.

'The evidence produced by the government at the preliminary and detention hearing shows that the acts of the defendant may well have been acts he committed in defense of himself or in defense of his home," Howell wrote in a court document, the paper reported.

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Judge questions evidence in Cherokee murder case (The Asheville Citizen Times 6/8)