Taxpayers foot bill for scrapped jury selection in accused cop killer trial

Local News
Grover Cannon trial graphic 6-12-2019_1560393967374.JPG.jpg

CADDO PARISH, La. (KTAL/KMSS) Last Friday, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that jury selection in the first-degree murder trial of accused cop-killer Grover Cannon, would again be held in the 19th Judicial District Court in East Baton Rouge Parish.

Cannon is accused in the August 5, 2015 shooting death of Shreveport Police Officer Thomas LaValley when he responded to a suspicious person call in the Queensborough neighborhood. 

Hopefully, Caddo Parish has some deep pockets, as the Court’s last three-week junket cost taxpayers more than $90,000, and the next round stands to cost even more. 

(For a complete breakdown of the expenses we were able to obtain through Freedom of Information Act Public Records Requests, see the end of this article) 

Cannon’s Jan. 14, 2019 trial was scrapped on the day it was set to begin after the defense team did an end run around the prosecution by hiring a pollster to do a poll linking the personal domestic shooting death of an off-duty SPD officer to LaValley’s on the weekend before the trial was to kick off.

On that day, the 1,000 prospective jurors who had been summoned to appear were sent home, and Cannon’s lawyers filed a motion for a change of venue for jury selection. 

On Feb. 19, trial Judge Ramona Emanuel issued an order for a change of venue for jury selection, with the jury then to be brought back to Caddo Parish for Cannon’s trial. The trial date was set for March 25, 2019.

Almost 500 prospective jurors summoned showed up at the Baton Rouge Courthouse to report for jury selection on March 25, and Cannon, his defense team and the Caddo Parish court and security staff was in place to begin the arduous task of choosing a death-penalty qualified jury. 

However, on March 22 – the Friday before the trial was to start in Baton Rouge – the defense filed a motion asking to throw the whole thing out, because their motion said, only 34 percent of the prospective jurors were black, and black people make up 46.5 percent of the 19th JDC.

The timing of the motion meant it had to be argued in Baton Rouge, so even if it had later been granted, Caddo court and security staffs would have still had to travel to Baton Rouge at Caddo Parish taxpayer expense. 

In between selecting jurors, the motion was argued, and denied. Then, as the defense has done throughout the past almost-four years, they appealed it to the second circuit court of appeals. When that failed, they took it to the Louisiana Supreme Court, where it also was denied.
But the defense hedged their bets, and three days into jury selection while the other motion to quash was making its way through the courts, it filed a second motion to shut down the trial. 

That motion – that prospective jurors between the ages of 18 and 26 had been omitted from the jury pool – was denied by the trial court, so the defense took it to the Supreme Court, who kicked it back to the trial court for another hearing.

The hearing was held, the trial court again denied the motion, at which time the defense went back to the Supreme Court.

At that point, the High Court issued a stay until they could read transcripts and figure it out, and on April 12, the courtroom in Baton Rouge went dark, and everybody came home to Caddo Parish to wait for a decision. 

On April 23, the Supreme Court came down with a decision – the entire process was shut down, and once again, a new date would have to be selected for Grover Cannon to be tried.

We knew those 20 days in Baton Rouge cost Caddo Parish taxpayers thousands of dollars in room, board, supplies and transportation, and we decided the taxpayers had a right to know how some of their money was being sent.

So, on April 24, 2019, our research department began sending out Public Records Requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

We sent the requests to all the local agencies involved in the jury selection process in Baton Rouge and asked for their expenses during those three weeks. 

Although, the responses were still coming in when trial court Judge Ramona Emanuel issued a gag order on May 10th, we were able to put the material we already had received, along with information we were able to find based on set fees.

For example, we had the room fees for 10 employees of the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office who were in Baton Rouge from five days to the entire 20, so were able to multiply the days they were there by the $31 the CPSO allows per day for meals. 

Although we were given the per diem charges of all the DA’s employees – $51 – which also gave us the number of days they were in Baton Rouge, we did not have the room charges from the three-man prosecution team or a secretary, all of whom were in Baton Rouge for the entire 20 days.

We were, however, able to obtain room charges for some employees of the DA’s office, and one employee who was there the entire 20 days had noted in her expense report that her room fees of $2,698.18 were paid by a credit card from the DA’s office, so we multiplied that number by the four who also stayed 20 days.

We also know that there are other charges out there that we were unable to get because they were turned in after the May 10 gag order was issued, but we had enough to at least let people know at least some of what they spent on the spring excursion in Baton Rouge:

Although this is a running total, and sure to be higher when the gag order is lifted, the current breakdown is as follows:

Presiding Judge: 
Lodging:  $2,486; Meals $1,357; Mileage, $244.08
                                                           TOTAL $4,087.08

Court Reporter
Hotel/Parking: $3,216.90; Meals: $590; Mileage, $531.36 
                                                            TOTAL: $4,338.26

Caddo Clerk of Court:
Employee No. 1: Hotel: $2,486; Meals, $1,150; Mileage, $236 = $3872.00
Employee No. 2: Hotel: $2,486; Meals, $1,150; Mileage, $236 = $3872.00
                                                                                      TOTAL: $7,744.OO

Caddo Parish Sheriff

Employee No.  1: Hotel, $  565; Meals,  $155 (est.)
Employee No.  2: Hotel, $  720; Meals,  $251 (est.)    
Employee No.  3: Hotel, $1,130; Meals, $310 (est.)                      
Employee No.  4: Hotel, $1,130; Meals, $310 (est.)                      
Employee No.  5: Hotel, $1,130; Meals, $310 (est.)                   
Employee No.  6: Hotel, $1,356; Meals, $372 (est.)                     
Employee No.  7: Hotel, $2,486; Meals  $713 (est.)                       
Employee No.  8: Hotel, $2486; Meals,  $713 (est.)               
Employee No.  9: Hotel, $2,486; Meals, $713 (est.)                       
Employee No. 10 Hotel, $2,486; Meals, $713 (est.) 
                                                              

RENTAL VEHICLES
2019 Dodge: $2,658.00
2018 Ford:    $3,256.25
2018 Ford:    $2,984.97
       TOTAL: $29,761.22

Caddo Parish District Attorney’s Office 

Employee No. 1: Hotel, $672; Meals, $131; Parking, $75
Employee No. 2: Hotel, $469.80; Meals, $186; Parking, 80.48; Mileage, $268.71
Employee No. 3: Hotel, $2698.10; Meals,$858.00; Mileage, $251.22; Tips, $8
Employee No. 4: Hotel, $2698.10(est); Meals, $969
Employee No. 5: Hotel, $2698.10(est); Meals, $893
Employee No. 6: Hotel, $2698.10(est); Meals, $902
Employee No. 7: Hotel, $2698.10(est); Meals, $844

Office supplies: $246.73
Louisiana Supreme Court Filings: $100

TOTAL: $20, 441.84

Reimbursement checks to prospective jurors in Baton Rouge 19th JDC 

 TOTAL: $23,806.48

GRAND TOTAL: $90,178.88

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