Monday, February 15, 2010

Louisiana's Disarrayed Justice continuum ad infinitum

Woman from Pointe Coupee Parish not guilty on first DWI

Woman from Pointe Coupee Parish not guilty on first DWI By Chris Nakamoto

Officials postpone deadly crash grand jury trial

Feb 11, 2010

It took ten minutes for Judge Alex Wall to find 23-year-old Victoria Gosserand "not guilty" of first offense DWI in Baton Rouge.

In a separate case of DWI in Pointe Coupee Parish, Gosserand faces more serious charges. Investigators say she was three times over the legal limit when she caused a crash that killed 23-year-old Terri Parker and injured vehicle's driver.

Even though the first case doesn't involve Parker's family, they were in court to seek justice.

"If the courts would have taken care of the first DWI, she wouldn't have gotten the second DWI," Parker's mother, Debra Cushionberry said.

In court, the Baton Rouge police officer who pulled her over told a packed courtroom that after he arrested her, the smell of alcohol was so strong he had to crack a window in his police unit.

The executive director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving told News 2 she was concerned there wasn't enough evidence to convict Gosserand.

"We're not always winners," Donna Tate said. "The details of every case are different. In this case, there was not an opportunity to have a field sobriety test done because of the defendant's refusal and no blood alcohol test."

A grand jury in Pointe Coupee Parish will decide next week whether to formally charge Gosserand for the crash in New Roads.

Officials postpone deadly crash grand jury trial

Posted: Feb 11, 2010 6:12 PM CST Updated: Feb 12, 2010 5:36 PM CST

By David Spunt - bio | email

NEW ROADS, LA (WAFB) - A grand jury trial in New Roads scheduled for Friday was postponed after two judges have openly recused themselves from the case of a deadly crash involving a woman who failed a field sobriety test.

District Attorney Ricky Ward said Judge James Best and William DuPont have recused themselves. According to a source, DuPont said he has already been assigned a civil lawsuit in the matter. Best admitted he recused himself.

"It is much too personal to me to preside over this case, as my son was a classmate of both Victoria Gosserand and Kyle Riviere," Best said. "It would put me in an awkward position."

Ward said the case will be reassigned to either Judge Robin Free or Alvin Batiste. He expects the grand jury to hear evidence either next week or the following week.

Teri Parker's father says he is upset about the delay.

"I'm frustrated because my daughter has been taken from me and it's made me feel like nothing has been done about it," said John Parker.

Two days before Christmas, Teri Parker, 23, was killed as she drove home from work. Police have charged Tori Gosserand, 23, in the case. Records show Gosserand had a .30 blood alcohol level at the time of the accident. In Louisiana, the legal limit is .08. Kyle Riviere was riding with Teri Parker. He survived the crash.

Officers cleared in Monroe shooting


February 11, 2010
Officers cleared in Monroe shooting

The two officers involved in the shooting death of Bernard Monroe Sr. have been cleared.

Late Thursday afternoon, the Claiborne Parish Grand Jury handed down a no true bill, which means no criminal charges will be filed against former Homer Police Officers Tim Cox and Joseph Henry, in a case that turned the community of Homer upside down.

When the results were handed down, the only officer that might have faced criminal charges was Cox. According to the report filed with the Claiborne Parish Clerk of Court, Cox could have faced a charge of first degree murder, second degree murder, manslaughter or negligent homicide.

According to Assistant Attorney General John Sinquefield, the grand jury met two full days and worked overtime on the case. The 12 member jury heard 21 witnesses, including 12 civilians, meaning non law enforcement witnesses. They reviewed dozens of items of evidence and returned the no true bill, he said.

“I think they did a very thorough, very complete investigation involving the death of Mr. Monroe,” Sinquefield said. “They did a very good job in reviewing the evidence. All the witnesses, all the police personnel, and all the governmental officials in Homer cooperated 100 percent with us in our investigation, and on behalf of the attorney general’s office, we’d like to thank all these people.”

He extended his thanks to Second Judicial District Judge Jenifer Clason, Claiborne Parish Sheriff Ken Bailey, Homer Police Chief Russell Mills and all the police jury personnel for their full cooperation and accommodations during the grand jury proceedings – held at the Claiborne Parish Police Jury Complex in Homer.

“Judge Clason was very helpful and available, and took our report and showed us every courtesy of the court, and we’d like to thank her,” he said.

Rob Moore, of the Moore Law Firm in Arcadia, the attorney representing Henry, said his client is glad it’s over.

“We’re just relieved that it’s over,” Moore said. “Joey loves this town and wishes the best for Homer.”

Henry declined comment on the matter at this time, as did Homer Police Chief Russell Mills. Mills declined comment under the advisement of Town Attorney Jim Colvin, pending a civil suit.

Attorney Morris Dees, of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama, representing the Monroe family, said they are disappointed in the outcome of this incident.

“They are extremely disappointed that no indictment was returned,” he said, “and they intend to file a civil lawsuit in the near future with the opportunity for a jury to hear the factual determination in the death of Mr. Monroe – something that did not take place with the grand jury.”

Dees indicated that a suit will be filed within the next 10 days as of Friday, February 5.

Bernard Monroe Sr., 73, was shot and killed by Cox on Friday, February 20, 2009, at his home. He was transported to Homer Memorial Hospital with multiple gunshot wounds. He later passed away at the hospital.

According to police, they were pursuing Monroe’s son, Shawn, on foot, and the chase ended at his residence where Monroe allegedly engaged the two officers with a loaded handgun. Witnesses at the scene say he did not have a gun, but rather a sports drink bottle.

The Rev. Willie Young, president of the Claiborne Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said the members of his organization were disappointed in the outcome.

“We’re disappointed, and we have to accept the results whether I like them or not,” he said. “You live in the real world and there’s two sides to every story.”

He said they prepared themselves for the outcome either way, and it was time to move forward.

“The grand jury has spoken and we move on from here,” Young said.

The tragedy has spurred unrest and many questions by members of the community from all sides. The U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the ACLU and the Louisiana State Police have investigated the case from several different aspects, including any possible civil rights violations as well as the investigation into the incident itself.

The Rev. Al Sharpton was in Homer last year saying that he would not rest until justice was done for Monroe. The NAACP also conducted its own investigation just weeks after the incident.

Ex-officer's attorneys: Taser not cause of death

Robert Morgan • • February 11, 2010

Defense attorneys for former Winnfield Police Officer Scott Nugent said they plan to contest claims that a Taser stun-gun caused the death of Baron "Scooter" Pikes in 2008.

Nugent had been set for trial on a manslaughter charge Feb. 9, but the date was postponed until June 14 by state Judge John Joyce.

Nugent is accused of causing Pike's death while he was in Winnfield police custody by shocking him nine times with a Taser.

Pineville attorneys George Higgins and Phillip Terrell said the defense will challenge the science the prosecution intends to introduce.

Despite a finding by Winn Parish Coroner Randolph Williams that Pikes died as a result of the Taser shocks, Higgins said, "We contend that a Taser cannot cause the death of a human being."

"The Taser is a non-lethal weapon. That's precisely why it's used," he said.

Terrell said a report from forensic pathologist Joel Carney of Lafayette declares that the cause of death is "inconclusive."

Carney, who examined the body the day after Pikes died, issued a report saying Pikes had sickle cell anemia and an enlarged heart, either or both of which could have contributed to his death, according to portions cited by Terrell.

The report does not cite the Taser incident as a cause of death, he said.

Taser darts only go under the skin and cannot impact internal organs, the attorneys said.

"As we've contended from the beginning, Scott Nugent did not cause the death of the deceased," Higgins said.