When FBI agents went looking for Jabril Harper's killers, they found their way to Ernest Green and allegations of a murder-for-profit scheme.
Arrested in 2012 but never convicted, Green has spent every day since his arrest in jail.
On Friday, a federal judge pointed to Green's time in custody without a conviction — his trial resulted in a hung jury — in dismissing the murder charges against him and two others.
The judge, however, stopped short of granting their release and gave prosecutors until Monday to appeal his decision.
"There's no reason why he should be held one more minute," defense lawyer James P. Harrington said Friday. "Mr. Green should be granted release now."
U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny denied Green's request but acknowledged his time in jail and right to a speedy trial prompted his decision to dismiss the murder charges.
"This is a six-year detention case," Skretny said of the time Green and the others spent in jail.
The judge's decision is the latest chapter in a prosecution that centers around Harper's 2009 murder in Buffalo's Roosevelt Park.
The FBI contends Harper, a drug dealer, was killed as part of a murder-for-profit scheme and that Green and Rodshaun Black shot him and left him for dead.
After a nearly three-month trial before Skretny, a jury failed to reach a verdict on the murder charges and acquitted Green and Black of kidnapping and robbing another drug dealer.
"After six years, they have a right to be released and that should be now," defense attorney Barry N. Covert said Friday.
During Friday's court appearance, Harrington argued for Green's release and at one point accused the U.S. Attorney's office of "egregious behavior."
Early on in the case, prosecutors announced their intention to pursue the death penalty and "misled" a judge into believing a formal request had been made to the Department of Justice in Washington D.C., Harrington said.
The request was never made and the result was a lengthy delay in their quest for a speedy trial, he said.
"These men spent an extensive period, years, with this hanging over their head," Harrington said Friday.
Prosecutors declined to comment on the allegation.
During the trial, the government argued that Green, Black and another defendant, Daniel Rodriquez, kidnapped Harper at gunpoint, robbed him of jewelry, drugs and money and then transported him to Roosevelt Park, where he was killed.
The FBI investigated and a grand jury later charged the men in a nine-count indictment. The three men were also accused of conspiring with another defendant, Amilcar Ramos, to plan and carry out the robbery-turned-murder.
Ramos was acquitted of all the charges against him. The jury was also hung on the charges against Rodriquez.
Covert said Rodriquez, who may face unrelated state charges in Steuben County, is being denied the option using his time in custody as time served in the state case.
Black, who is already serving prison time on a previous conviction, would not be affected by an order to release.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel L. Violenti said the government intends to appeal Skretny's decision to dismiss the murder charges and on Friday asked him for time to file the appeal.
Skretny gave him until Monday.