(KTAL/KMSS) UPDATE: Four-hundred-fifty prospective jurors lined the 300 block of North Boulevard in Baton Rouge this morning, kicking off the 1st degree murder trial of the man accused in the 2015 murder of a Shreveport Police officer began today in Baton Rouge.
Grover Cannon is charged in the August 5, 2015, shooting death of SPD Officer Thomas LaValley when he responded to a suspicious person call in the 3500 block of Del Rio Street.in Shreveport.
A change of venue motion was granted after defense attorneys ran a poll among Caddo registered voters just two days before Cannon’s trial was set to begin on Jan. 14. The poll questions linked the January fatal shooting of SPD Officer Chateri Payne to LaValley’s death.
After the motion was granted, inquiries were sent to judicial districts around the state, and the 19th Judicial District stepped up and volunteered their facilities and prospective jurors.
Although the jury will be empaneled in Baton Rouge, once jurors and alternates are selected, they will be brought back to Caddo Parish by bus where they will be sequestered in a local hotel for the duration of the trial.
According to 19th JDC Administrator Ann McCrory, the prospective jurors received summons to appear at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, March 25,2019, to begin the selection process. Prosecutors and defense attorneys hope to empanel a 12-member jury, as well as alternate jurors who will sit through the trial, and if necessary, replace any jurors who become unable to serve during the ongoing proceedings. In a Louisiana death-penalty case, up to six alternates can legally be chosen, but usually only two-to-three are selected.
Cannon is being transported to Baton Rouge by the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office and will be present in the courtroom throughout jury selection. CPSO officials declined to give the actual number of deputies traveling to Baton Rouge citing security concerns.
They did, however, say they are providing bailiffs for the courtroom, along with deputies and members of the emergency response team (ERT) from Caddo Correctional Center.
The Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office is sending prosecutors Ed Blewer and Bill Edwards, Assistant District Attorneys, along with an administrative assistant.
Although only one clerk is required in the courtroom, Caddo Parish Clerk of Court Mike Spence said he is sending two from his office, to make sure there is backup if it became necessary. At least one court reporter will be there, as well.
Caddo District Judge Ramona Emanuel, who is presiding over the trial, also will travel to Baton Rouge for the duration of jury selection. It is unknown if she will be traveling with an assistant.
The entourage will stay in Baton Rouge hotels for the duration of jury selection, which could take up to a week or even longer because the jury must be ‘death-penalty qualified.’
Basically, that means prospective jurors not be categorically opposed to capital punishment, yet are not of the belief that the death penalty must be imposed in all instances of capital murder, and would be open to a life sentence, as well.
KTAL/KMSS has a crew in Baton Rouge and a reporter in the courtroom. We will be bringing you updates throughout today’s proceedings and tonight on NBC6 News and FOX33 News.