NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from a Louisiana man who was convicted three times of killing a 6-year-old boy while on parole as a sex offender in 1992.
Ricky Langley’s attorneys argued that his third trial for Jeremy Guillory’s death put Langley in double jeopardy and should not have been held. A three-judge federal appeals court panel agreed, but 12 of the full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ 17 judges ruled in June that the third trial was legal.
The nation’s highest court said Monday without comment that it won’t hear the case.
Langley’s appeal attorney, Richard John Bourke of the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, did not immediately return a call and email Friday requesting comment.
Guillory’s body was found in a closet of his home in Iowa (EYE-oh-way) — a town of 3,000 about 10 miles (15 kilometers) east of Lake Charles — on Feb. 7, 1992. His T-shirt was “soaked in Langley’s semen,” Circuit Judge Andrew S. Oldham wrote in the nine-judge 5th Circuit majority opinion.
The opinion said Langley choked the child, strangled him and “stuffed the boy’s corpse in a bedroom closet and lied to the child’s mother when she came looking for her son. Langley then waived his Miranda rights and repeatedly confessed on video to molesting and killing the boy.”
He was sentenced to death in 1994 for first-degree murder. That verdict was overturned because a judge had chosen the grand jury’s foreperson by race.
His second conviction, in 2003, was overturned because of judicial misconduct. Jurors had found Langley guilty of second-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence.
In 2009, Langley chose to be tried without a jury. Judge Robert Wyatt rejected double-jeopardy arguments and convicted him of second-degree murder.
The judge found that “Langley had specific intent to kill because, after their ‘sexual encounter,’ Langley thought death would ‘do this little boy a favor,’” Oldham wrote.
The 5th Circuit judges who first heard the case called it heartrending. However, they said that since both the first- and second-degree murder charges required proof that Langley meant to kill or seriously injure Guillory, the second jury’s acquittal on the more serious charge meant he couldn’t be tried for the lesser.
That’s not so, the full court ruled. Among several reasons, it noted that the trial judge told the second jury that it could base a second-degree murder conviction on a decision that Langley meant to kill or seriously injure the boy — and his lawyers told the federal appeals court that the instruction was legally valid.
In addition, the jury could have avoided the question of specific intent entirely, convicting on the lesser charge to send Langley to prison for life rather than returning for hearings about whether he deserved the death penalty, the judges found.
“Langley’s lawyer used these instructions to plead for the jury’s mercy. The record suggests the jury might’ve chosen second-degree murder for precisely this reason,” the opinion said.
Three judges said in a concurring opinion that the first 5th Circuit ruling could have been overturned simply because the judges had overstepped their authority by expanding another decision.
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