NEW ORLEANS, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – It’s back to the drawing board for the trial of accused Shreveport cop killer Grover Cannon after the Louisiana Supreme Court upheld a defense motion that claims jury selection was unfair because people aged 18-to-26 were not in the jury pool.
Cannon is accused in the August 5, 2015 shooting death of SPD Officer Thomas LaValley when he responded to a suspicious person call.
After three weeks of empaneling a jury, interspersed with motions, hearings, and appeals on the omission of the younger jurors, the Louisiana Supreme Court came down on the side of caution and scrapped the jury selection that has been ongoing in Baton Rouge since March 25.
The High Court quashed the entire proceeding and sent it back to Caddo Parish. There, the trial court now must find another location to select the jury.
The jury is being selected in Baton Rouge, after the defense successfully argued for a change of venue for selection of jurors on Jan. 14, 2019, the very day Cannon’s trial was slated to begin. On that day, 1,000 prospective jurors had been summoned to the Caddo Parish Courthouse for the purpose of jury selection in the Cannon trial.
However, just a few days before the trial, off-duty Shreveport Officer Chateri Payne was killed in a domestic incident. Over the following weekend, which also was the weekend prior to the beginning of the first-degree murder trial, Cannon’s defense team ran a poll in Caddo Parish linking the deaths of the two officers and the publicity surrounding them.
Although presiding Judge Ramona Emanuel previously had denied change of venue requests, she acquiesced to that one, and the search was on to find another judicial district capable of summoning a jury pool.
The prosecution preferred selecting a jury closer to home, suggesting Lake Charles, Alexandria, and Monroe, though admitted Monroe might be too close to Shreveport, while the defense preferred Lafayette, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans.
Ultimately, Baton Rouge’s 19th Judicial District was selected, and March 25 was set as the day jury selection was to begin. In Baton Rouge, 450 prospective jurors were summoned to appear on the first day of selection.
On the Friday before jury selection began, the defense began filing motions to try to stop it. First, a motion was filed that there were not enough minorities summoned in relation to Baton Rouge’s minority population. After that motion was denied and appeals to the 2nd Circuit and the Supreme Court were exhausted, the motion claiming the age disparity issue emerged.
That motion was argued in court and denied, then appealed to the 2nd Circuit and denied, and appealed to the Supreme Court, who first sent it back to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing, detailing not only how the information regarding the 18-26 jury pool omission, but also when the defense obtained the information. That hearing was held, and again, Emanuel denied the motion.
At that point, the defense appealed Ramona’s denial to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who again upheld her denial.
On April 11, the defense again turned to the state Supreme Court, who sent it back to the 2nd Circuit, giving them the opportunity to revisit. But the 2nd Circuit denied a hearing, which put the motion back into the lap of the Supreme Court.
Throughout the time the age-disparity motion has been winding through courts in Baton Rouge, Shreveport, and New Orleans, the defense has requested the various courts to stop all proceedings while the motion was under consideration.
All stays were denied until the motion landed back in the High Court last week, at which time a stay was granted until the motion could be considered by the Appeals Court, and if necessary, the Supreme Court.
The Baton Rouge courtroom has been dark since last Wednesday and will remain so.
When a new venue has been chosen for jury selection, the entire state and defense entourage will go to that city and begin jury selection.