Supreme Court sends Cannon jury selection back to Baton Rouge

Thomas LaValley Grover Cannon composite 7-18-18_1553813850397.JPG-22991016.jpg

NEW ORLEANS, La. (KTAL/KMSS) Jury selection for the first-degree murder trial of the man accused in the 2015 slaying of a Shreveport Police officer will begin for the second time this year in Baton Rouge, according to a ruling by the Louisiana Supreme Court. 

Grover Cannon is accused in the August 5, 2015, shooting death of SPD Officer Thomas LaValley, who responded to a suspicious person call in the Queensborough neighborhood.

The High Court on Friday overruled a defense motion granted by trial Judge Ramona Emanuel on May 10 to bring jury selection back to Caddo Parish, after it was halted due to irregularities in the jury pool. 

The trial began with jury selection in the 19th Judicial District Court (19th JDC) in East Baton Rouge Parish on March 25, after Emanuel ruled in favor of a change of venue for jury selection in January.

The change of venue for jury selection came after Cannon’s Jan. 14, 2019 trial was aborted on the day it was set to begin. Emanuel granted the joint motion from the defense and prosecution, after the defense linked publicity surrounding the death of another police officer to Cannon’s trial.  

On Jan. 9, less than a week before Cannon’s trial was to kick off, off-duty SPD Officer Chateri’ Payne was shot and killed in an alleged personal domestic incident. 

Using the young officer’s tragic death, the defense paid a profession polling company $5,000 to run a poll among Caddo Parish voters linking Payne’s death and LaValley’s the weekend before the trial was slated to begin.

The random calls were made throughout Caddo Parish, with one landing in the District Attorney’s Office where everyone was hunkered down preparing for Monday’s trial. 

But it worked – and the whole defense and prosecution entourage had to go on the road.

While the prosecution argued for jury selection to be held in Ouachita or Rapides Parishes, the defense asked for Lafayette, East Baton Rouge or Orleans Parish. 

East Baton Rouge – the 19th JDC – was selected, and the trial date was set for March 25, the day jury selection began. 

Jury selection, however, came to a screeching halt three weeks later when the Louisiana Supreme Court upheld a defense motion that claimed jury selection was unfair because people aged 18-to-26 were not in the jury pool. 

But not before thousands of Caddo Parish taxpayer dollars had been spent on room, board and transportation for Caddo District Court staff, employees from the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Caddo Clerk of Court’s office, the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office, as well as nearly $24,000 to pay the 450 prospective jurors summoned by the 19th JDC. 

Back in Shreveport, prosecutors filed a motion to bring jury selection back to Caddo, which Emanuel granted, along with a gag order prohibiting the prosecution, defense, law enforcement or the courts from discussing the case until the trial began. 

The trial was scheduled to kick off with jury selection on June 17 in Caddo Parish, and, according to Caddo Parish Clerk of Court Mike Spence, 1,200 prospective jurors were  summoned to appear on that day.

However, Cannon’s attorneys didn’t want to bring jury selection back to Caddo, so filed a writ with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. When the Second Circuit denied that writ, they once again, appealed to the Louisiana Supreme Court. 

The High Court ruled the state failed to prove why the jury selection venue should be moved back to Caddo from Baton Rouge, since the issue of the 18- to-26-year-old jurors had been taken care of.

Now, a new trial date will have to be selected, because, according to Ann McCrory, judicial administrator for the 19th JDC, it takes three weeks to summon a jury pool. 

McCrory said since Caddo Parish is footing the bill for security, court staff, and jurors, time is the only thing the 19th JDC is giving up.

She added that the entire exercise was a positive thing for the East Baton Rouge Court, because the problem with the jury pool had been found and is now corrected. 

Although Emanuel’s ruling was scrapped, and the trial date will have to be changed, the gag order remains in place, so we were unable to get comments from the agencies involved. 

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