Crime

Louisiana Man Held For Four Months Without Being Indicted In Murder Case Ordered Released From Jail

| by Jared Keever

A Louisiana man, suspected of killing a pizza delivery driver in March, could be released from jail soon because he has not been indicted within the required 120 days. 

Court records, obtained by The Times-Picayune, show that Orleans Parish Magistrate Commissioner Jonathan Friedman ordered the release of 24-year-old Michael Portis Thursday. 

Portis, however, remains in jail, held on detainer from the U.S. Marshals Service, alleging that he violated his parole on a 2012 federal weapons charge. 

That may soon be thrown out, The Times-Picayune reports. 

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Police arrested Portis April 1 on suspicion that he he murdered 36-year-old Michael Price.

Price, a husband and father of three, was working as a Domino’s pizza delivery driver on March 24 when he was found shot to death in his car around 1 a.m. in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans. Because his wallet was missing police suspected robbery as the motive for the shooting, according to The Times-Picayune. 

Police Superintendent Michael Harrison said at the time of Portis’ arrest that tips, called into a Crimestoppers hotline, led police to Portis’ home where he was arrested without incident.

“Portis will be charged with first degree murder and we will continue to build our case to bring absolute justice to Mister Michael Price and his family,” Harrison was quoted as saying by WDSU News.

That case has apparently never been built. 

Authorities did obtain a search warrant for Portis’ home, but Harrison declined to disclose what might have been found, according to The Times-Picayune. 

Portis has now spent more than four months in jail, held without bond, and has not been indicted. 

Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro told The Times-Picayune the situation is frustrating. 

“We have certainly been discussing this case extensively for the last few weeks,” he said. “Unfortunately, we are not in a position right now, based upon the information and evidence that we have, to present this to a grand jury for purposes of indictment. I'm hoping that's going to change in the next few weeks. But at this time, out of a sense of fairness, we cannot present what we have to the grand jury and ask for an indictment.”

Because he has not been indicted, Portis has not entered a plea in the case. 

Cannizzaro said the federal parole violation could buy him some time to build a presentable case, but, as the parole hold is linked to the Price case, he doesn’t suspect it will offer him much. 

“[Releasing Portis] is a discretionary call with the judge and the federal probation officer,” the prosecutor added.  “I am hopeful we'll have at least a week to 10 days within which to try to make some decisions.”

Should he be released, Portis could still be charged in the Price case at a later date as there is no statute of limitations in a murder case. 

Sources: The Times-Picayune, WDSU News / Photo Credit: Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office via The Times-Picayune