SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The attorney for the man convicted of capital murder in the August 2015 death of a Shreveport Police officer, on Wednesday told three appellate judges that his client’s conviction should be overturned due to an error by the trial judge.

On Nov. 20, 2019, a 12-member jury convicted then 32-year-old Grover Cannon of first-degree murder in the August 5, 2015 shooting death of 29-year-old SPD Officer Thomas LaValley.

Shreveport attorney Lee Harville represented Cannon in the appeal, while Caddo Assistant District Attorney Tommy Johnson represented the state.

(l-r) Appellate Judges James Stephens, Frances Pitman and Marcus Hunter, Louisiana 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal

The attorneys presented their oral arguments before a panel of Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Marcus L Hunter, Frances J. Pitman and James “Jimbo” Stephens.

According to Harville, who had 20 minutes to make his case, Cannon’s civil rights were violated because his defense attorney, Dwight Doskey, of the Capital Defense Project of Southwest Louisiana, did not put on the defense Cannon wanted and instead presented a self-defense argument.

Cannon wanted his attorneys to argue that he was not in the Queensborough home when LaValley was shot.

But Harville’s complaint was not against Doskey, but instead was against Caddo District Judge Ramona Emanuel, the trial judge,* who Harville claimed, erred in allowing Doskey to go forward with the defense his team had prepared.

The case law Harville used was the May 2018 U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that a defense attorney cannot override his client’s wish and concede guilt at a trial, even if the lawyer does it to save his client’s life.

The case cited was McCoy v. Louisiana, in which the high court overturned the August 2011 triple homicide conviction and death penalty of Robert McCoy of Bossier City. McCoy is incarcerated at Bossier Maximum Security awaiting a new trial.

“He has the right to his own self-defense, no matter how nutty,” Harville said.

Johnson, who had 15 minutes to answer the Cannon’s allegations, argued that in the McCoy case, McCoy had repeatedly objected to his attorney and been denied. But Cannon did not object to the self-defense argument orally in court, nor did he file a motion objecting to the plea.

Doskey did ask Cannon in open court if he objected to the self-defense plea, and he answered in the affirmative, Johnson said. But, because the judge was not asked to rule, she said nothing.

In addition, Cannon testified on his own behalf during the death penalty phase of the trial, against his attorney’s advice. Cannon wrote a list of questions, which his attorney read and allowed him to answer.

While on the stand, Cannon read a statement saying he was not at the Queensborough house where LaValley suffered multiple gunshot wounds when making a suspicious person call.

* Although it did not come up in Wednesday’s arguments, Cannon did tell the judge he objected to the defense team’s original plea, “not guilty, not guilty by reason of insanity.”  

And on Dec.4 2018, following evaluations from three mental health professionals, all of whom testified Cannon was competent to stand trial, Emanuel allowed him to change the insanity plea to “not guilty.”

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