SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A jury has found Grover Cannon guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Shreveport Police Officer Thomas LaValley.
Cannon, 31, was charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of the 29-year-old Shreveport police officer on August 5, 2015. Officer LaValley was shot while responding to a report of a suspicious person at the home of Cannon’s sister, Latauria Cannon, in the 3500 block of Del Rio Street in the Queensborough neighborhood.
The jury deliberated for just two hours before returning with the verdict just before 9 p.m. on the seventh day of the trial and less than 20 minutes after returning to the courtroom to ask the judge to review the definitions of first-degree, second-degree, and manslaughter. Shortly after returning to deliberations, the jury notified the court that a verdict had been reached.
When the verdict was read, Cannon showed no reaction. While there was a generally subdued reaction from family and friends of the slain police officer, some could be heard sobbing.
Cannon now faces the death penalty in the punishment phase of the trial, which is set to get underway Thursday morning.
After a 40-minute closing argument from the state, followed by defense closing arguments that lasted just under an hour and a 33-minute rebuttal by the state, Judge Ramona Emanuel gave instructions to the jury around 6:30 p.m. The jury, which is made up of four females, two black, two white; and eight males, three black, five white, began deliberations just before 7 p.m.
Closing arguments got underway just after 4 p.m. Wednesday following testimony from Cannon, who was the only witness to take the stand in his defense. By contrast, the state called nearly 30 witnesses in the process of presenting its case. The prosecution rested its case Tuesday afternoon.
Lead prosecutor Ed Blewer started closing arguments Wednesday afternoon by telling the jury, “Grover Cannon is clearly remorseless based on the testimony you heard today. Grover Cannon disrespected you by coming in here and lying, lying, lying and lying to you.”
Blewer said Cannon executed LaValley while the officer lay shot, bleeding and calling for help, adding that “Grover Cannon executed Thomas with his own gun.”
The lead defense attorney, Dwight Doskey, started his arguments by calling the prosecution’s arguments “very powerful” and said LaValley’s heart was in the right place but was impetuous for going in without backup.
Doskey told the jury “This is a young black man accused of killing a young white officer,” adding that case could be self-defense if Cannon had been inside the house when LaValley entered. “Maybe all you see is a white guy entering your family house with a gun telling you to show your hands.”
While the defense gave their closing arguments, a LaValley family friend covered her ears and bowed her head to block out the defense going back through the killing of LaValley.
Closing arguments came after Cannon took the stand earlier Thursday morning, denying he shot and killed Officer LaValley. Cannon said he is being “blamed and framed” for something he didn’t do and that all the witnesses who testified in the state’s case – even the pathologist who did the autopsy on LaValley – lied.
Due to an earlier ruling that allowed him to conduct his own defense with the assistance of the Capital Defense Project, Cannon opted to take the stand in his own defense. Dwight Doskey, lead defense attorney, told the jury that Cannon was testifying over the objections of the capital defense team, and offered that the questions were written by Cannon.
Those questions gave Cannon the opportunity to claim that he wasn’t in the house when Officer LaValley was slain, nor did he shoot Darren Williams three weeks earlier.
Cannon detailed the day of LaValley’s death, admitting he went to his sister Latauria Cannon’s house to do his laundry but said he left before LaValley was killed.
He admitted his sister, along with her live-boyfriend, Edward Flakes; their then 7-year old son; his mother, Ramona Cannon; and neighbor Nichelle, all of whom testified, were in the house while he was there that day, but claimed his mother, sister and Flake all lied when they said he threatened to kill them.
Cannon said he saw the video of his mother’s and sister’s interview with police on the night LaValley died, which was shown in open court Monday afternoon during testimony by SPD Sgt. Shawn Hinderburger, who conducted the interviews, but said they were lying and were trying to “clear things up” now.
Cannon said he had become angry with his mother because she was standing over his food, but did not threaten her. He said he told her when he was incarcerated in Texas, he had an issue with food, because homosexuals “were playing with food.”
He said he did not have a gun, nor did he have one since he returned from prison in March, and that the state trooper who searched him after his arrest in a shed where he was hiding on Jackson Street lied about finding two bullets in his pants pocket. In addition, Cannon said the police officer, who found the 9mm handgun in the shed where he was captured planted it there.
Cannon also denied shooting bail bondsman Darren Williams with the same 9 mm gun a forensic examiner had testified was used to shoot LaValley at least once and claimed to know nothing about LaValley’s service weapon, which is believed to have been used fire the additional multiple shots that ultimately killed him.
He said he heard the police-issued Glock was missing and said he thinks one of LaValley’s “co-workers” killed him. Cannon also said Larry Clarkson, who testified he saw Cannon open fire on Williams, lied.
In the state’s cross-examination, Caddo Assistant District Attorney Ed Blewer asked Cannon if he shot Darren Williams, and Cannon answered “No.” Then Blewer said, “So Derrick Williams and Larry Clarkson lied?” “Yes,” Cannon replied.
Prosecutors spent the previous six days laying out the state’s case, wrapping up Tuesday with evidence and testimony tying bullet casings found at the scene to a gun police say Grover Cannon used in another shooting less than a month before.