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Man Dies 14 Years After Shooting; DA Considers Murder Charges

Fourteen years ago, a Charlotte man name Maurice Phifer shot another man in the neck. Phifer served at least eight years in prison. Now, Phifer could be headed back to prison because the victim recently died. The District Attorney's office must decide whether to charge Phifer with murder. In 1997, Maurice Phifer went home and caught his wife with another man. That man was John Southerland. Phifer shot Southerland with a 9 millimeter handgun. Phifer was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and intent to kill. Southerland never walked again. He died last month as a result of those gunshot injuries, a medical examiner determined. Phifer was released in 2007, but he could face another trial for the same shooting from 14 years ago. Charlotte Mecklenburg Police have forwarded the case to Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray. CMPD says the DA will decide if double jeopardy applies in this case since Phifer has already been tried and convicted for the shooting. If not, Phifer could face a murder charge. It's an unusual case, says Charlotte School of Law professor Sandra Jordan, but not unprecedented. She thinks the bigger issue for prosecutors is whether they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Southerland died as a result of the shootingand then there's the challenges of time. "So we're talking about 14 years, so as a practical matter the government may have difficulty locating the witnesses or the other evidence to support the homicide charge," says Jordan. Meanwhile, police have already added Southerland's name to this year's list of homicide victims.