Fresno man charged with murder walks away free

November 14, 2012 12:17:37 AM PST
It was a crushing blow to the family Tuesday morning when the case against James Batten, 31, came sputtering to an end. They had words with Batten in court, but their anger is not only aimed at the accused murderer.

James Batten walked out of jail Tuesday and ran off to the rest of his life, five months after he's accused of ending Sierra McCray's life.

Police say the 18-year-old was an innocent victim when Batten opened fire on rival gang members in an East Central Fresno apartment in May. McCray's family tells me Batten is getting away with murder.

"How am I supposed to feel and he's just smirking. Every time we went to court, a smirk was on his face, like it's funny to him."

McCray's mother and sister are too worried for their own safety to let us show their faces, but they describe Sierra as a fun-loving girl who loved dancing.

"She was just always bubbly, just laughing, always smiling. Every time I was down or anybody was down, she'd come in and cheer us up and they took that away from us."

McCray's family believes Batten is responsible for her murder, but they're also upset with the two other victims who were hit in the attack. Both men suffered minor injuries and pinned the shooting on Batten, but both men disappeared before the case could go to trial.

"Everybody's saying that they loved and they cared and they respected my sister, but at the same time, nobody's trying to get justice. Nobody's trying to help."

Batten has been prosecuted in the past for intimidating witnesses to another shooting, but that time, he served a prison sentence. This time, at least so far, he's driving off a free man.

Prosecutors could still re-file the charges against Batten if they find the witnesses, but investigators say they've been searching all over the place for quite some time.

Batten didn't want to talk on camera, but he told Action News he didn't kill McCray and he didn't know anything about why the witnesses disappeared.

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