High court overturns New Orleans murder conviction

Started by Granny B, January 11, 2012, 04:49:12 PM

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Granny B

High court overturns New Orleans murder conviction

By Jesse J. Holland-Associated Press
Tuesday, January 10, 2012


WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned a death row inmate's conviction of killing five people in the justices' latest slap at the conduct of prosecutors in the New Orleans district attorney's office.

The high court voted 8-1 to order a new trial Tuesday for Juan Smith, who was convicted of five murders at a 1995 party. The only witness to identify Smith, Larry Boatner, gave inconsistent statements about whether he could recognize or identify Smith as one of the killers.

Prosecutors under former New Orleans District Attorney Harry Connick Sr. never gave Smith's lawyers those statements or other statements that could have been favorable to the defense. Prosecutors are required to do so under Supreme Court precedent.

"Boatner's undisclosed statements alone suffice to undermine confidence in Smith's conviction," Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in the court's opinion.

New Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said Tuesday his office will retry Smith.


** FILE ** An artist's rendering shows the newest Supreme Court justice, Elena Kagan (right), during a hearing at the court in Washington on Monday, Oct. 4, 2010. Seated (from left) are Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen G. Breyer, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia; Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.; and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Elena Kagan. (AP Photo/Dana Verkouteren)** FILE ** An artist's rendering shows the newest Supreme Court justice, Elena Kagan (right), during a hearing at the court in Washington on Monday, Oct. 4, 2010. Seated (from left) are Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen G. Breyer, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia; Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.; and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Elena Kagan. (AP Photo/Dana Verkouteren)

"Tomorrow morning we will file a motion in this quintuple murder case to set it for trial within the next 60 days," Mr. Cannizzaro said in a statement.

Justice Clarence Thomas was the only dissenter. He said that the Boatner statements were not enough to believe that the jury would have found Smith not guilty.

"The question presented here is not whether a prudent prosecutor should have disclosed the information that Smith identified," Justice Thomas said in his dissent. "Rather, the question is whether the cumulative effect of the disclosed and undisclosed evidence in Smith's case 'puts the whole case in such a different light as to undermine confidence in the verdict.'"

This is the second time in two terms that the Supreme Court has dealt with violations in the New Orleans prosecutor's office of so-called Brady rights, named after the Supreme Court's Brady v. Maryland case, which say prosecutors violate a defendant's constitutional rights by not turning over evidence that could prove a person's innocence.

The high court earlier this year overturned a $14 million judgment given to a former death row inmate who was convicted of murder after the same New Orleans office withheld evidence in his trial. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in a rare oral dissent, called the prosecutors' actions "gross" and "deliberately indifferent."

Smith was convicted in eight 1995 killings. His Supreme Court appeal deals with a quintuple murder known in New Orleans as the "Roman Street massacre," in which armed intruders killed four people at a party. A fifth person died later, and Boatner escaped death by pretending to be unconscious.

Boatner gave differing statements about whether he could identify the shooters, but eventually he identified Smith at his murder trial. Boatner's earlier statements, however, were not shared with Smith's lawyers.

The convictions in the Roman Street murder case were used against Smith at his next trial, a triple murder in which the ex-wife and 3-year-old child of New Orleans Saints defensive back Bennie Thompson were fatally shot, along with the ex-wife's fiance. Conviction in that case landed Smith on death row. His appeal in that case is on hold pending the outcome of the Roman Street case.

The case is Smith v. Cain, 10-8145.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/jan/10/high-court-overturns-new-orleans-murder-conviction/
" Closure? Closure is a misused word in the English language.  There is no such thing as closure for the family of a murder victim.  There will never be any closure for the death of our loved ones until we are dead ourselves.  The families have a lifetime sentence of anguish and sadness." 
Susan Levy

Granny B

Killer avoids death penalty; jury deadlocks over massacre
Published: Friday, December 08, 1995, 9:38 PM

Juan Smith, convicted of gunning down five people at a North Roman Street house earlier this year, dodged death row Thursday night after a New Orleans jury deadlocked on whether to execute him.

The stalemate ended a dramatic, four-day trial before District Judge Frank Marullo, a proceeding that featured extraordinary, last-minute legal maneuvering through the state courts and stunning testimony that Smith may be responsible for another of the city's most appalling crimes of 1995, the triple-murder of former Saints player Bennie Thompson's son and ex-wife and her fiance, Andre White.

Smith's sister testified that her brother boasted of riddling 3-year-old Devyn Thompson with bullets because he didn't like the way the toddler was looking at him.

Smith stands trial next month on three counts of first-degree murder in connection with those deaths, and prosecutors again will seek the death penalty if Smith is convicted.

Thursday's split jury means Smith, 21, automatically will receive life in prison for the Roman Street murders. Under state law, a death sentence can be imposed only by a unanimous jury vote. While 10 jurors wanted Smith executed, two refused.

During the penalty phase of his trial, two people testified that he admitted killing Devyn Thompson in the boy's eastern New Orleans home last February.

The alleged confessions were revealed by Smith's sister, Trenise Smith, and his girlfriend, Trenise Dorton. The women were allowed to appear as witnesses after a bitter dispute between assistant district attorney Roger Jordan and defense attorney Frank Larre was settled by a state appeals court. The appeals judges ruled unanimously Thursday afternoon that Jordan could call witnesses to discredit Smith's testimony, delivered Wednesday night, that he never killed anyone or possessed a gun.

Jordan recalled Smith to the stand Thursday, but he refused to answer questions after consulting with Larre.

"Do you also deny committing the triple homicide that happened on Feb. 4, 1994, on Morrison Road when Tangie Thompson, Devyn Thompson and Andre White were slaughtered in their home?" Jordan asked.

"I still plead my Fifth Amendment right, " he said.

Jordan then called Trenise Smith to the stand. Clearly reluctant to talk, she was forced to admit under oath that her brother had told her he killed Devyn Thompson because he thought the toddler might identify him.

"He told me he shot the baby because the baby was looking at him, " she said.

Trenise Smith tried to downplay her brother's words, claiming he followed that statement with, "Psych! I'm just playing with you."

But, under relentless questioning from Jordan, she admitted she never revealed that disclaimer when first talking with prosecutors this summer.

She also said that when Smith first told her about the killings, he was laughing.

Trenise Dorton also mentioned the "psych!" phrase, but acknowledged that on two occasions Smith told her he was behind the Morrison Road carnage.

During his closing argument, Jordan urged jurors to think first about the slayings of James Jackson, 43; Ian Jackson, 24; Willie Leggett, 22; Robert Simmons, 28; and Shalita Russell, 17, at 2230 N. Roman St. But he said they should not forget Smith's alleged complicity in the Thompson murders.

"Other significant criminal activity? Now you know, " Jordan said. "A baby could ID him and was looking at him and that's why he shot 3-year-old Devyn Thompson."

Larre reminded jurors Smith might have been joking about his involvement in the Thompson case and asked them to nurse any doubt they might have about his role in the Roman Street bloodbath.

The jury deliberated for less than two hours. While prosecutors kept a professional face when the deadlock was announced, they clearly were disappointed.

"If you can't sentence to death on eight bodies, well . . ." Jordan said, his voice trailing off.

The families of the Roman Street victims displayed no emotion, and left the courtroom quickly when the trial ended. Some said their main concern was that Smith be brought to justice, and they never contemplated his punishment.

"I really haven't been thinking about it, " said Phyllis Jackson, who lost her brother, James, and son, Ian. "I'm just trying to get through this thing day-to-day."

http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/1995/12/killer_avoids_death_penalty_ju.html
" Closure? Closure is a misused word in the English language.  There is no such thing as closure for the family of a murder victim.  There will never be any closure for the death of our loved ones until we are dead ourselves.  The families have a lifetime sentence of anguish and sadness." 
Susan Levy

Granny B

#2
January 11, 2012, 05:03:08 PM Last Edit: January 11, 2012, 05:29:48 PM by Granny B
Juan Smith sentenced to death for killing former Saint's son, ex-wife, her boyfriend
Published: Sunday, December 08, 1996, 9:31 PM

It took a jury an hour and 15 minutes Saturday night to do what another jury fell two votes shy of a year ago: sentence killer Juan Smith to death.

Smith, 22, was sentenced to die for the February 1995 murders of toddler Devyn Thompson, his mother, Tangie Thompson, and her fiance, Andre White, on Morrison Avenue. Last December, Smith was convicted of five separate counts of first-degree murder in an unrelated crime, a bloodbath on North Roman Street a month after the Morrison Avenue killings. But a jury deadlocked on whether to send Smith to death row, so he received five consecutive life sentences instead.

The story ended differently Saturday, bringing some closure to one of 1995's most gruesome and high-profile crimes, in part because former New Orleans Saint Bennie Thompson was an early suspect in the death of his 3-year-old son and ex-wife. Smith is one of four co-defendants police say were on a lethal hunt for drugs and money, and the first to stand trial. Robert Trackling testified against Smith and was allowed to plead guilty to lesser charges. Donielle Bannister and Kintad Phillips are awaiting trial.

After Judge Frank Marullo read the sentence, relatives and friends of the victims calmly filed out of the Criminal District Court building and closed the long, solemn day by setting free three white doves from the building steps.

"My soul is satisfied and I know our children are all right now, " said Lillian White, Andre White's mother. "All I know is he (Smith) will never be able to hurt another family again."

The sentence capped a whirlwind day.

The jury, which convicted Smith on Thursday night of the triple murder, heard wrenching testimony from the victims' mothers about their loss and pleas from Smith's family and attorney to spare his young life.

"Juan Smith giving up his life is not going to bring back any of the victims, " said Frank Larre, Smith's attorney. "Juan Smith needs to be punished. Juan Smith is already doing five life sentences in Angola. He'll watch his young life drain away a day at a time."

Marullo denied Larre's repeated requests for a mistrial, even after the jury received documents the judge admitted it should not have seen.

And in a surprise move, the defense enlisted Sister Helen Prejean, a death penalty opponent and author of "Dead Man Walking, " a book that was made into a hit movie starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. Over the strenuous objections of lead prosecutor Roger Jordan, Prejean was certified as an expert on the trauma the death penalty inflicts on the families of defendants and victims.

With appeal after appeal after appeal, the death penalty puts victims' families on hold, and when it finally happens, the execution doesn't bring loved ones back or heal survivors' pain, she said.

"If the person (defendant) gets life, they are never heard from again, " Prejean said. "With the death sentence, they can't really move on until it happens."

Prejean testimony was the last of the the emotional, weeklong trial.


But the jury decided enough factors existed to warrant the death penalty. In the second part of a capital case, after jurors reach a guilty verdict, prosecutors ask them to consider a defendant's criminal record, whether he committed the crimes in a particularly heinous or cruel way, and how the crimes affect those left behind.

Citing the carnage in the shootings at Morrison Avenue and North Roman Street within a four-week period in 1995, Jordan said if ever a set of facts dictated the death penalty, this was it. Toddler Devyn alone had eight bullet wounds, and one of the victims in the other shooting had 14, most of them in the back, Jordan said.

"He was judge and jury for all eight people in those two houses, " Jordan said.

The jury heard from a survivor of the North Roman Street shootings, Rebie Espadron, whose sister, cousin and three friends were killed.

Lillian White described her son as the kind of person who would "walk up to you and give you a bear hug."

"That's what I missed the most because he hugged me all the time, " she said.

Devyn Thompson spent every Friday night with his grandmother and called her "dearest." He was about to get his first Easter suit, but got a burial suit instead, Williams said. He loved gospel music and liked to sing one particular song about the devil, Williams said, and screamed, "He didn't know the devil was coming."

Some members of the jury broke down, and as he did Thursday, Marullo halted proceedings.

As jurors headed upstairs for a break, Larre asked for a mistrial, contending that prosecutors had tainted the jury by playing on its members' emotions and made a fair trial impossible. Marullo denied the motion but did restrict the photographs of the North Roman Street killings that the jury could see, citing a Baton Rouge case in which the penalty phase of a capital murder case was reversed after the judge let jurors see unnecessary pictures.

But graphic photographs were not the only sticking point Saturday.

Larre also laid further groundwork for an appeal after prosecutors gave the jury a copy of Smith's indictments and convictions in the North Roman Street shootings. The stack of documents contained information not intended for the jury's eyes, including Smith's arrest history with a "career criminal" stamp on it and a chronology of the case with entries about alleged confessions.

While the judge and attorneys were in chambers, the jury members sat in small groups and "dissected it line by line, " said Larre, who added that the "confessions" never happened. Marullo again denied Larre's request for a mistrial but ruled the jury was not to see the documents again.

"It certainly was a mistake to give that document to the jury, " Marullo said.

Smith, who sat expressionless throughout the trial, showed the first glimmer of emotion when his uncle, sisters and mother took the stand. Triniece Smith, who was subpoenaed to testify about a conversation in which her brother boasted about the crime, said she will wonder every day if she helped put him to death.

"I just pray to God, don't kill my brother, " she said. "My children look up to him."

If Juan Smith is executed, Diane Smith said she'll be left with only one son because her eldest was killed during a robbery in 1993. "I know what it feels to lose a child, " she said. "I just ask you to please don't take his life."

But Brenda Williams said the death sentence answers part of her prayers. "My children died for nothing, " she said outside the courthouse. "Whoever sent them there, they are going to die in hell."

Larre, who had begged the jury to show mercy, said Smith's death would not bring the victims back. After the trial, he said the grounds for an appeal were ample. Larre also said Smith had wanted to take a book that he had at the defense table but that sheriff's deputies would not let him.

It was a copy of "Dead Man Walking."

Pamela Coyle wrote this report.

http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/1996/12/juan_smith_sentenced_to_death.html

"With appeal after appeal after appeal, the death penalty puts victims' families on hold, and when it finally happens, the execution doesn't bring loved ones back or heal survivors' pain, she said.

"If the person (defendant) gets life, they are never heard from again, " Prejean said. "With the death sentence, they can't really move on until it happens."


Well!!  Might have known that the nasty lying bitch Prejean Poisonous Penguin would stick her long damned Pinnochio nose into this case as well! >:( 

We all know for a fact this is not true or factual, witness the act of  the outgoing Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour handed out 193 pardons during his final day in office on Tuesday, January 10, 2012.

So you can bet a lot of these will be seen in court again for more murders, rapes, etc. 


ARRRRRGH!




" Closure? Closure is a misused word in the English language.  There is no such thing as closure for the family of a murder victim.  There will never be any closure for the death of our loved ones until we are dead ourselves.  The families have a lifetime sentence of anguish and sadness." 
Susan Levy

deeg

If Sister Prejean was so interested in speaking up for the "innocent" her efforts would be better served speaking up for the children molested by priests.   >:( >:(

Dee
The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money - Margaret Thatcher
The most terrifying words in the English language: "I'm from the government and I'm here to help." - Ronald Reagan

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