SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The attorney for the man accused of fatally shooting SPD officer Thomas LaValley says his client is not the killer, and that his arrest was a case of mistaken identity.
That was part of the opening statement delivered by defense attorney Dwight Doskey as 31-year-old Grover Cannon’s first-degree murder trial got underway Thursday morning in Caddo Parish District Court.
Cannon is accused of shooting LaValley on August 5, 2015 as the officer responded to a domestic disturbance call in the 3500 block of Del Rio Street in the Queensborough neighborhood.
The 12-member jury, selected in Baton Rouge in a month-long process that wrapped up Tuesday, was seated at 9:45 a.m. Following a reading of the indictments against Cannon, Judge Ramona Emmanuel read the instructions to the jury before the floor was turned over to Caddo Parish Assistant District Attorney Ed Blewer, who is the lead prosecutor in the case.
For 54 minutes, Blewer outlined the case the prosecution will present, from the moment Thomas LaValley responded to the 911 call at the Del Rio home where his sister, her “longtime husband and boyfriend,” and their 7-year-old son lived, to the garage on Jackson Street where Cannon was found hiding 18 hours later.
Blewer described in graphic detail how, when LaValley was down on the floor bleeding profusely from non-lethal shots, including one in the face that went through his left eye, the kill shot came as LaValley was calling on his radio for help.
According to Blewer, that shot went through LaValley’s ear, into his brain, and cracked his skull in two places.
Through Blewer’s opening statement, Cannon sat at the defense table, alternating from taking notes and reviewing what appeared to be written notes on a yellow legal pad. He did not look up at the jury, or at the prosecutor as he spoke.
In contrast, Doskey spoke for 19 minutes, first praising LaValley for being a caring police officer whose heart was in the right place. Doskey then said that LaValley should not have gone into the house where he was killed without backup, and he lastly claimed that Cannon did not kill the officer and that it was a case of mistaken identity.
Jurors will remain sequestered for the duration of the trial, which is expected to continue into the weekend.
The start of the trial comes after more than four years of delays. This is the third trial date this year for Cannon, after the first was scrapped in the day it was set to begin in January when Grover’s defense team asked for a change of venue for jury selection due to publicity following shooting the death of SPD Officer Chatéri Payne, just five days before Cannon’s trial was set to kick off.
The change of venue was ultimately granted and jury selection began in late March, only to be halted three weeks into the process over defense concerns that jury selection was unfair because people aged 18-to-26 were not in the jury pool.
Cannon faces the death penalty if convicted.