In the Courts: Cannon trial delayed as defense tries to link recent police shooting to LaValley’s

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The mother of the Shreveport police officer slain in the summer of 2015 will have to wait to see his accused killer tried in court, after his defense team successfully argued in favor of a motion to continue his trial.

Jackie LaValley, mother of SPD Officer Thomas LaValley has attended every hearing held for Grover Cannon, the man accused of unloading multiple bullets into the young officer’s body when he responded to a suspicious person call on August 5, 2015 in the 3500 block of Del Rio.

Jury selection was slated to begin today in Cannon’s 1st Degree Murder trial, and hundreds of jurors filled the halls of Caddo Parish Courthouse this morning only to learn the trial would be continued.

Dwight Doskey, lead defense attorney, submitted five motions in court this morning, one of which asked for a continuance considering the Jan. 9, 2019 shooting death of SPD Officer Chatéri Payne in an area near where LaValley died.

Doskey noted that Payne’s funeral isn’t until Saturday (Jan. 19th) and her death changed people’s opinions. He claimed the community’s attention was focused on Payne’s death, and people were “justifiably outraged,” but added it would be impossible to find an unprejudiced jury.

He indicated that due to the publicity surrounding Payne’s death, the defense team plans to file a motion for a change of venue for the trial. If the judge ruled in favor of the motion, the jury would be empaneled from another judicial district in Louisiana and brought to Shreveport for the trial.

Lead prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Ed Blewer said the state anticipated the motion to continue, noting “they’ve been consistent with that throughout the case,” but then dropped the bombshell that the defense team ran a poll linking the two cases throughout the weekend.

Unbeknownst to the judge or the prosecution, the defense team hired a professional polling company, J & M Analytics, to conduct the poll that asked questions regarding Payne’s homicide and LaValley’s.

The poll was conducted using robo calls on land lines, and live callers on cellphones. The DA’s office became aware of the poll Saturday morning as Blewer, Bill Edwards and Ron Stamps, who make up the prosecution team were preparing for today’s trial. At around 10:20 a.m. Saturday, a random robo call came in on a land line in Blewer’s office.

Though calls aren’t ordinarily taken on Saturdays, Blewer instructed his secretary to answer, as it might be a witness subpoenaed for Monday’s trial…Instead, it was a computer pollster asking opinions on the Payne homicide and the upcoming Cannon trial, as well as soliciting demographic information regarding the respondents’ age, race, gender, etc.

Soon after, prosecutors learned the calls were going out all over town.

Calling the poll “outrageous conduct” by the defense, Blewer said though the state was prepared to go to trial today, it understood the influence of poll might make it impossible.

He said if it had happened months ago and precipitated a change of venue motion back then, it might have been more acceptable, but said doing it at the last minute was “disgusting.”

In response, Doskey quietly told the Court, “Looking back, I should have asked.”

Caddo Parish District Attorney James Stewart said his office is working now to find what recourse the state has in holding the defense accountable for running the last-minute poll.

Other motions filed today by the defense that will be ruled on by Emanuel involved written reports versus live testimony, evidence they wish to suppress and certain exhibits.

But argument concerned Cannon’s Jan. 9 oral motion to fire Doskey, which Emanuel denied. In court that day, Cannon asked that his objection to Emanuel’s ruling be recorded, and Emanuel responded, “noted.”

Cannon based his motion of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of a Bossier Jury’s guilty verdict and death penalty sentence of Robert McCoy. McCoy was convicted of the 2008 murders of his estranged wife’s son, mother and step-father.

The High Court accepted McCoy’s argument that although he always maintained he was innocent and framed by Bossier Police, his lawyer admitted his guilty during the penalty phase of the trial. McCoy’s case has now been sent back to Bossier Parish, where he once again awaits trial on the triple homicide charges.

Two days after Emanuel turned down Cannon’s motion to fire Doskey, his attorneys filed a writ asking the Louisiana’s 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn Emanuel’s ruling on firing Doskey, which was denied just after 9 this morning – minutes before jury selection was to kick off.

This morning, Doskey said Cannon’s motion would be appealed to a higher court, but he was bound to file a motion to withdraw in the event a higher court would rule in favor of Cannon’s motion.

In an interview later in the afternoon, Stewart said today’s little episode meant hundreds of people in the jury pool were sent home, and more than 60 witnesses subpoenaed to be at trial today had to be sent home.

But the one who was hurt the most was Thomas LaValley’s mom, who for the past three-and-a-half years has driven the 275 miles to Shreveport from her home in St. Amant, Louisiana at least once a month, sometimes more, to attend every hearing held to insure Grover Cannon will have a fair trial.

On Wednesday, Cannon and his attorneys will be back in court – this time to discuss all the motions filed over the past few days and to put yet another date on Caddo District Judge Ramona Emanuel’s docket in the matter of State of Louisiana versus Cannon, Grover D.

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