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Archive for the ‘Courts’ Category

If Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Jerry Larpenter feels as if he is being squeezed these days, it is for good reason.

He is.

On the one hand, state district judges of the 32nd Judicial District are requiring that Larpenter perform the duties of his job.

On the other hand, federal investigators reportedly are looking into the manner in which Larpenter performs the duties of his job. Reports are the FBI recently completed two days interviewing one of Larpenter’s deputies. The nature of those interviews was not immediately known.

Meanwhile, two private security guards and a Houma police officer have taken over security at the Terrebonne Parish Courthouse following the high sheriff’s refusal to do so even though state statutes clearly say:

  • “Court criers are to be provided by the sheriff of each parish to each district judge.”
  • “The crier of a court (notice this is not restricted to Orleans) shall attend all sessions thereof, under the direction of the judge shall open and close court at each session, and maintain order and decorum in the court room, and shall perform such other duties as are assigned to him by law, the court, or the sheriff.” (emphasis added)
  • “Each sheriff or deputy shall attend every court that is held in his parish…”
  • “Security in the courthouse is the responsibility of governing authority (Gordon Dove), but an agreement may be made between the parish officers and the building to share the expenses.”
  • “The principal functions of the criminal sheriff are that of being keeper of parish jail and executive officer of the Criminal District Court.”

Larpenter tried to pull rank on the judges by refusing a request by Judge Randal BETHANCOURT to provide more security details assigned to the courthouse. Larpenter demanded more pay for doing so and the judges said no dice. That standoff more or less backed the judges into a corner by forcing them to retain private security and municipal police officers.

Following the dispute over additional security vs. additional pay, Larpenter took photographs of inmates being transported to court and being held in holding cells until being called for their hearings and arraignments.

Armed with the photographs, Larpenter called the State Fire Marshal down on the court, apparently for the overcrowded conditions in the cells.

A little background is in order here. The State Fire Marshal, like the State Superintendent of Police is a position filled by appointment of the governor but no governor in his right mind would do so independently, i.e. without the blessings of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association. Make no mistake, the sheriffs’ association dictates to every governor who shall fill the positions of Secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, State Fire Marshal and State Superintendent of Police. Ergo, Larpenter felt sufficiently confident to call in the big boys on the judges—big boys that his association props up.

Down and dirty politics at the local level? Damned right and normally that would be a lethal weapon given the formidable alliance of the sheriffs’ association, Secretary of Public Safety, State Superintendent of Police and State Fire Marshal. In case no one has been paying attention, those are the preeminent law enforcement agencies of the state. You generally don’t cross swords with that kind of power.

Larpenter then goes to the local press with his brainstorm for a great cost-cutting measure: video arraignments.

But that was only a temporary setback as the judges came back with their own “gotcha.”

First, they issue an order banning all video arraignments, thereby forcing Larpenter to bear the costs of transporting more than 150 prisoners for hearings two weeks ago.

Then, Judge David Arceneaux signed an order in which he struck through language requiring the warden of Dixon Correctional Institute in East Feliciana Parish, 120 north of Houma, to transport a prisoner from the facility to Houma and back. Judge Arceneaux then wrote in longhand, “Terrebonne Parish Sheriff to transport from Dixon Correctional Institute,” adding that Larpenter was to deposit $1500 for the cost of transporting the prisoner.

Needless to say, all this has set off a minor war in the 32nd JDC. Larpenter sputtered and fumed but Bethancourt replied it was all Larpenter’s fault, supposedly for balking at providing more security for the courthouse.

Regardless whose fault it is for the situation to have deteriorated so badly, it has morphed into a very interesting little turf war that isn’t like to end soon—or well. And it promises to be a fight worthy of the sordid reputation of Louisiana politics.

The number two spectator sport behind football.

In other words, fun.

 

 

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A three-judge panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge has scheduled arguments for Tuesday in the state’s appeal of a DECISION by a 19th Judicial District Court judge last March that knocked down much of the Jindal administration’s arbitrary rule changes in the approval of medical treatment for state employees injured on the job.

The decision was another in a long line of “reform” movements by Jindal—and pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—that were subsequently found to be unconstitutional or simply fell apart. Some of those included public education funding, group medical coverage for state employees, public-private partnerships in the operation of state hospitals, prison privatizations and tax proposals.

In his March 30 seven-page REASONS for JUDGMENT that followed a Feb. 7 bench trial, District Judge Don Johnson noted that:

Because the legislature did not authorize OWC to create a new rule creating a “tacit denial” when the provider simply ignores a request for treatment, “the Office of Workers Compensation exceeded its legislative authority as (it) lacks the authority to create and implement procedural regulations that authorize the ‘tacit denial of requested medical treatment which is statutorily obligated to the injured worker by the employer pursuant to (state statute).”

Johnson also found that OWC promulgated rules requiring injured workers to meet a higher burden than the state statute for any variance in an injured worker’s treatment schedule are “vague and the regulations are arbitrary, denying injured workers’ medical treatment that Louisiana employers are statutorily obligated to provide…”

Johnson also found that the “scheme” for determining whether an injured worker can receive medical treatment outside the Louisiana medical treatment guidelines (MTG) “is unduly burdensome.”

Special Assistant to the Director Carey Holliday testified that he was hired to help “bring the judges into conformity,” according to the answer to the state’s appeal filed by attorney J. Arthur Smith III on behalf of several plaintiffs. Holiday did that by implementing judicial performance evaluations. While he acknowledged he could not tell judges how to rule, he could “put them together and let them talk” and that “there will be some conformity…to come out of that,” Smith said in his answer.

The most damning revelation to come out of last February’s trial was testimony of improper Ex Parte communication between insurance carriers and defense attorneys about the merits of injury claims pending before OWC judges. Those communications were usually in the form of emails.

For example, one such email from a workers’ compensation defense attorney to former OWC Director Wes Hataway, Holliday, and the OWC chief judge contained complaints that one judge had ruled against an employer. The email went on to say of the judge, “He should be fired immediately,” and implied that the judge’s skills were less than those of a first-year law student. “He will do as he pleases no matter what,” the email said. “If this isn’t grounds to fire a judge, I don’t know what is.” The defense attorney ended his email by saying, “I think it’s time for the W.C. judges to become accountable for their actions.”

Judge Johnson took a dim view of this disregard for judicial independence by the 2011 decision to remove of the decision-making authority of the OWC judges and place it in the hands of the OWC Medical Director, Dr. Christopher Rich.

Johnson ruled that OWC “has violated the separation of powers doctrine by compromising judicial independence” by giving unpreceded powers to Dr. Rich, who was awarded a $500,000 contract to serve as medical director.

Rich, if nothing else, is consistent. Previously involved in ethical problems with another state contract, LouisianaVoice wrote about an apparent conflict of interest. In March 2011, the State Ethics Board ruled that he was prohibited, in his capacity as Medical director of OWC from participating in any matter involving Central Louisiana Surgical Hospital, a facility in which he owned an interest and which provided medical treatment to injured workers.

As OWC Medical Director, he could deny coverage to a state employee and then refer the employee to Central Louisiana Surgical Hospital for private treatment.

And did he ever deny coverage to state employees once ensconced as medical director. He even testified in February that he ignored the clinical judgment of treating physicians, even specialists, giving no weight to the recommendations of treating physicians. Moreover, according to his own testimony, he never examined an injured worker even though he made the final decision on what, if any, medical treatment the employee would receive. He even overruled a neurosurgeon’s recommendation that an employee undergo a cervical fusion because he, Rich, did not deem it necessary.

Attorney Janice Valois Barber testified in February that Rich had denied 100 percent of her clients’ requests for medical treatment variances. Dr. John Logan also testified by deposition that 100 percent of his variances likewise had been denied by Dr. Rich. Dr. Logan said that many of his patients simply gave up, knowing they would never get approval for the medical treatment they needed.

Dr. Pierce Nunley testified that he performs spinal surgery on almost a daily basis. He said he has attempted to contact Dr. Rich regarding Rich’s repeated refusals of request for treatments that vary from the MTG but was never able to get through to Rich nor did Rich return his calls.

So now, the state is continuing to pour good money after bad by appealing the decision of the lower court in an effort to uphold what was—and is—a very bad policy in dealing with people’s lives.

To us, it doesn’t seem quite right that one man, who never even once examined a patient would deny 100 percent of all requests for variances in the normal medical treatment guidelines. Surely there were a couple of valid claims in all of that.

But by consistently rejecting each and every claim, Dr. Rich was enforcing the Bobby Jindal code of justice and fair play.

It might be fine for Jindal to sell his books to his foundation in order to divert money from his non-profit into his pockets but no injured worker had a right to receive treatment for his injuries.

It might be fine for a legislator to lease luxury automobiles, pay ethics fines or even income taxes from campaign funds or for legislators to place relatives in state employment, but we just can’t have judges giving these deadbeat state employees a decent break.

And why not? The money-sucking appeals aren’t costing elected officials and bureaucrats anything. The tab is being picked by those clueless taxpayers. And besides, the state has plenty money.

The three-judge panel hearing the case includes appeal court judges John Michael Guidry, John T. Pettigrew and William J. Crain.

 

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General Jeff Landry remains the same self-serving, opportunistic, suck-up sycophant he has been since his first run at public office.

This is the same attorney general who almost daily sends out glowing press releases designed to put him in the best possible light as he gears up for what he hopes will a run for the state’s highest office—if not in 2019 against John Bel Edwards, then sometime in short order thereafter.

By taking full advantage of his agency’s public information office which by now is sorely challenged to keep coming up with sufficient superlatives—at taxpayer cost, no less—Landry has managed to see to it that every single news release is all about him first and the attorney general’s various enforcement divisions second.

Landry, taking over from another cruel joke of attorney general foisted upon Louisiana’s electorate in 2016, has made a career of nabbing deviates who like to download kiddie porn (or at least announcing that he, apparently personally nabbed them), low-ranking civil servants with no political connections who attempt to rake money off the top of various programs, including Medicaid, and a scam artist here and there.

All that’s well and good. Those people should be arrested. But where has Landry been in cases involving the politically powerful appointees, legislators who use campaign funds to pay for personal expenses like luxury autos, payments of income taxes and even ethics fines? It’s relatively easy to bust a town clerk somewhere in north Louisiana or even a DHH employee who gets a little greedy. But there are other big-time crooks a-plenty in state government who Landry seems to be able to quietly ignore.

The Louisiana Attorney General’s office is different from its counterparts in other states, thanks to the lobbying efforts of Louisiana’s district attorneys way back in 1974 when the current State Constitution was written and subsequently adopted by voters. The District Attorneys Association, jealous of its turf, managed to overcome the objections of then-Attorney General William Gueste in ramming through the Constitutional Convention a provision that the attorney general’s office could not intervene in local investigations unless invited to do so by the local DA.

Yet, here we have Landry churning out those news releases almost daily about some major arrest of some perpetrator somewhere in the state, raising the question of how he manages to interject his office into so many of these local matters. Even in the case of low-hanging fruit like state civil servants, should he involve his office in the arrest of say, a DHH employee for stealing from Medicaid and Medicaid or the intended recipient of the Medicaid benefits decides to sue DHH, Landry has himself a sure-fire pickle called conflict of interests.

You see, under the present structure of his office, his primary job is to defend, not prosecute, state agencies. Yet, in case of such litigation, he would be in charge of overseeing the AG attorney or contract attorney who is called upon to defend DHH. That in turn raises another question: How can he investigate an agency and defend it?

And most recently, LouisianaVoice received in its email inbox a puff piece from Landry lauding the nomination of Brandon Fremin as U.S. ATTORNEY for Louisiana’s Middle District. Fremin, you see, is Criminal Director “for General Landry’s office,” the news release says, where he oversees several sections, including general prosecutions, insurance fraud “and the award-winning Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.”

“Under his watch, over 15 public officials have been arrested for public corruption charges—many of whom are currently being prosecuted by the LADOJ (Louisiana Department of Justice, as the AG’s office is officially known).”

But how many of those 15 held positions of supervisors or higher? Better yet, how many cases of supervisory sexual harassment cases has Landry investigated during his brief tenure? Several such reports have been received by LouisianaVoice in recent months and we are attempting to investigate them ourselves, despite the lack the personnel and authority that Landry has at his disposal.

And just for good measure, it would be interesting to learn why he hired an employee for his Fraud Division who herself had been convicted of FRAUD.

Calling Fremin’s nomination a “grand slam homerun,” Landry lost no time in moving the dialogue to a me, me, me theme. “Under my administration,” he trumpeted (emphasis added), “our office (did he really say “our”?) has created a strong partnership with our federal partners and we look forward to continuing this with Brandon in leadership. Brandon will continue to help make Louisiana an even better place to live, work, and raise our families. I hope he is quickly confirmed by the Senate.”

There is one thing we’d love to see occur before the “Criminal Director for General Landry’s office” departs for the Federal Building downtown. As Director of the AG’s Criminal Division, we can only assume it is he who is ostensibly conducting the investigation of that jailhouse  RAPE of a 17-year-old girl in April 2016—an investigation now moving into its 19th month without a sign of resolution.

We’ve asked before and we’ll ask again: “General” Landry, just how long does it take to investigate a rape in the known confines space of a jail cell where the date of the assault and the identities of the victim and the assailant are all known to investigators?

Because the Union Parish district attorney sits on a governing board that runs the Union Parish Detention Center, he rightly recused himself and asked the AG’s office to conduct an investigation.

Inspector Clouseau could’ve hit a “grand slam homerun” on this one in a week. Yet that great champion of law and order, Jeff Landry, he of higher political aspirations, can’t seem to get traction after 18 months.

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Vincent Simmons has been imprisoned at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola for 40 years for a crime that he almost certainly did not commit and our vaunted system of justice is largely responsible for his inability to get a fair hearing.

The timeline of events alone should be reason enough to have granted him a new trial decades ago. Yet, he continues to languish at “the farm,” the name bestowed upon Angola in a 1998 documentary about Louisiana’s notorious maximum-security prison.

For openers, the time between public defender Harold Brouillette’s filing of a motion for preliminary hearing and Simmons’s conviction was an astonishingly short interval of only 27 days, hardly sufficient time to put on any semblance of a defense.

Normally, it takes much longer between an accused’s arrest and his trial. This is so defense attorneys can compile a list of witnesses, engage expert testimony, and obtain all evidence possessed by prosecutors. Sexual assault cases typically take SIX MONTHS between indictment and trial, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

It took half that long for the supposed victims to come forward and report that they’d been raped.

Here is the TIMELINE of events:

Monday, May 7, 1977—Twin 14-year-old sisters are riding around with their 18-yeaar-old cousin, Keith Laborde when they allegedly encountered an unknown black man at a 7-Eleven convenience store who asked them to give him a ride to his home. En route, he pulls a gun and forces Laborde to drive down a remote country road to a spot near a lake and there rapes the two girls.

Sunday, May 22, 1977—The two girls report—for the first time—to Sheriff “Potch” Didier, Maj. Fablus Didier, Capt. Floyd Juneau and Deputy Barbara DeCuir at the Avoyelles Parish Sheriff’s Office that a “black man” raped them on May 9, 1977.

7 a.m., Monday, May 23, 1977—Shift begins for Juneau and Lt. Robert Laborde (Laborde is a cousin of Keith Laborde).

8 a.m., Monday May 23, 1977—Juneau and Laborde make the decision to arrest Vincent Simmons.

9 a.m., Monday May 23, 1977—Simmons is walking down Waddil Street in Marksville when Juneau and Laborde, passing by on patrol, arrest him—without a warrant—on two counts of aggravated rape. Sheriff Didier orders a lineup. The lineup consists of seven blacks and one white. Of the eight men in the lineup, Simmons is the only one in handcuffs. Keith Laborde and the two girls observe the lineup from behind a mirror and pick out Simmons even though the girls had said all black men looked alike to them. Simmons is taken upstairs but is never interrogated. When Simmons refuses to sign a confession that had already been prepared by Laborde, he is shot in his left chest by Laborde. Laborde and Capt. Melvin Villemarette claim that Simmons took Villemarette’s gun and tried to shoot them, though he is never charged with that offense. Simmons is transferred to Huey P. Long Hospital in Pineville. Judge Earl Edwards now issues the warrant for the arrest of Simmons for the rape of the girls.

Tuesday, May 24, 1977—Coroner F.P. Bordelon, MD, examines both girls and discovers that one of the girl’s hymen is still intact, indicating she is still a virgin. The other girl admits to having had consensual sexual intercourse nine months earlier.

Friday, May 27, 1977—Simmons is released from the hospital and he is transferred back to the Avoyelles Parish jail.

Friday June 30, 1977—An Avoyelles Parish grand jury indicts Simmons on two counts of aggravated rape and two counts of attempted murder. Dr. Bordelon formulates his findings about his medical examination of the two girls and sends report to District Attorney Eddie Knoll. During trial of Simmons, jurors never learn of the existence of this report.

Thursday, June 23, 1977—Public defender Harold Brouillette, later to be elected a state district court judge, files a motion for a preliminary hearing. Judge Edwards orders that a preliminary hearing be held in the case of State of Louisiana vs. Vincent Simmons on the two counts of aggravated rape at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, July 7, 1977.

Wednesday, June 29, 1977—U.S. Supreme Court rules in Coker v. Georgia that the death penalty is unconstitutional for the crime of rape. This means that pursuant to the decision, the penalty for aggravated rape is only 20 years per count as opposed to attempted aggravated rape, for which no penalties had been set.

Thursday, July 7, 1977—At the 1 p.m. preliminary hearing, Judge Edwards schedules Simmons’s trial for July 18, 1977, giving Brouillette only 11 days to prepare for trial. This is known as a court’s “rocket docket,” whereby certain cases are moved to the top of the court’s list of scheduled cases.

Thursday, July 14, 1977—Assistant District Attorney Jeanette Knoll, wife of District Attorney Eddie Knoll, files a motion to amend the indictment to two counts of attempted aggravated rape. Judge Edwards signs the motion behind closed doors—without a second grand jury hearing. This opens the way for prosecutors to seek penalties of 50 years imprisonment for each count of attempted aggravated rape. Jeanette Knoll would later be elected to the Louisiana State Supreme Court.

Monday, July 18, 1977—Jury selection begins in the trial of Vincent Simmons.

Tuesday, July 19, 1977, and Wednesday, July 20, 1977—Two-day trial of Vincent Simmons is held, concluding in a guilty verdict on each count of attempted aggravated rape.

Thursday, July 28, 1977—Judge Earl Edwards imposes a 100-year sentence (50 years for each count, to run consecutively) on Simmons.

So, there you have it: a delayed report of rape to the suspiciously quick arrest, an equally quick trial that made it impossible for a public defender with no funds to retain expert witnesses or to conduct extensive investigations, to the manipulation of charges so as to obtain the maximum punishment for a crime that Simmons most likely never committed. The fast track his case was put on—with such an obvious lack of supporting evidence—makes it appear that authorities were almost desperate in their haste to run him through the system and get a conviction. To think those charged with protecting our rights and freedoms would stoop to such tactics should send a chill down all our spines for who’s to say we might not be the next to undergo such treatment at the hands of the law and order advocates?

Someone coined the phrase “Justice delayed is justice denied.” This rings especially true in the case of Vincent Simmons. Justice for him has been delayed for 40 years—and counting. His story and sadly, as is true of so many others like him, is the type justice that a defendant might expect to encounter when he doesn’t have:

  • Money;
  • Connections;
  • A name that screams influence;
  • Highly-paid attorneys;
  • The right color skin.

For an example of all the above, see LOUIS ACKEL.

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So, just why didn’t the officials at the Department of Corrections transport Vincent Simmons to Marksville for Wednesday’s hearing?

Or better yet, what do prosecutors of the 12th Judicial District have to fear? Are they trying to cover for Eddie Knoll’s mistake? A mistake that has cost Vincent Simmons 40 years of his life?

Most probably, it’s just a matter of someone at Angola State Penitentiary dropping the ball, says New Orleans attorney Robert Hjortsberg.

A hearing was scheduled to be held on Wednesday on a motion by Hjortsberg to recuse Judge Kerry Spruill for a hearing on Simmons’s application for post-conviction relief. Hjortsberg wants Judge Spruill recused because of his association with Knoll, who originally prosecuted Simmons in 1977.

But officials at Angola inexplicably failed to transport Simmons to Marksville even though they “assured us he was going to be here,” Hjortsberg said on Wednesday after the Angola no-show. “In fact, my office also called to make sure he was going to be here because there is a lot of people, including myself, who have come from all over the place in order to be here to support him.”

Vincent was convicted for attempted aggravated rape of twin 14-year-old white girls in 1977 on the basis of what Hjortsberg says was “flawed and contradictory testimony” and in spite of there being no physical evidence of any description against Simmons.

Among the discrepancies that cast doubt on Simmons’s guilt:

  • The girls waited two weeks to report the incident;
  • There was never any physical evidence that the rapes occurred;
  • No forensic tests were carried out on the clothing of the alleged victims, Simmons’s clothing, or the interior of the car in which they said the rapes occurred;
  • The doctor who examined the girls reported that he found no signs of injury on either girl and that one of the girls was still a virgin two weeks after the supposed rapes;
  • Simmons was convicted on July 24, 1977. Yet, on June 10, some six weeks earlier, Dr. F.P. Bordelon, Jr. wrote of his examination of one of the girls, “There was (sic) no bruises on her body. The vaginal examination showed that the hymen was intact.” Contents of Dr. Bordelon’s letter were never admitted into testimony during the trial. That’s exculpatory evidence and grounds for a new trial;
  • The girls initially said they did not know their attacker’s name but testified in court that he had told them his name before assaulting them;
  • The girls said they would not be able to pick out their assailant “because all black men looked the same” to them;
  • Yet, they later picked Simmons out of a police lineup in which he was the only one handcuffed;
  • The police investigation reports did not include a single lead pointing to Simmons, yet he was picked off the street and charged with the crime;
  • Two reports by the same police officer written 24 hours apart gave two completely different locations of the place of arrest;
  • There is no indication that police, at any point, had an official interview with Simmons or that he gave any statement. Yet, when he was arrested and taken into custody, a police officer who was related to Keith Laborde, the supposed victims’ cousin, shot Simmons in the chest, nearly killing him;
  • Police claimed that Simmons disarmed one of the officers and attempted to shoot him but his gun misfired. Yet, this was not mentioned at trial, nor was he ever charged with resisting arrest any other crime related to that claim;
  • The arresting police officers never testified at trial;
  • No pre-trial or investigations by Simmons’s court-appointed legal counsel were ever made;

Simmons has been attempting to win an evidentiary hearing for several decades but the state has never afforded him one.

Simmons’s application for post-conviction relief has offered another piece of exculpatory evidence that was in the prosecution’s possession but never revealed to the jury.

“Recently, Vincent Simmons became aware of an affidavit signed by Pamela Jones, a witness present at the J&J Snack Bar the night of the alleged rapes,” Hjortsberg says in the application. “The withheld information given by Pamela Jones was known by the state because they and/or their agents are the ones that initially acquired the information.”

The rapes allegedly occurred when the girls said they were abducted at a 7-Eleven convenience store by Simmons who then forced Laborde, their 18-year-old cousin, to drive down a remote dirt road where they said they were raped near a lake.

Hjortsberg said that after Jones heard about Simmons’s arrest, she called the District Attorney’s office, gave her name and number, and explained that she knew that Simmons could not have committed the crime. “She was told that someone from the state would contact her, which never happened,” he wrote in his motion.

“After the phone call, Pamela followed up by going to the District Attorney’s office to tell them her side of the story,” he said. When she arrived, she was met by a white male who identified himself as an investigator. “He told Pamela that someone would get in touch with her in a few days to get her statement because there was no one present in the office to take it at the time. No one from the District Attorney’s office ever contacted her again.

“…At least one other individual that described himself as an investigator had knowledge of this information and never turned it over to defense counsel or notified them that the statement had been made.

“This favorable evidence related to Pamela Jones’s statement clearly shows that the Avoyelles Parish District Attorney’s office was aware of the evidence because they are the ones that heard the statements initially. Furthermore,” Hjortsberg says, “the prosecutor in this matter, Edward Knoll, was responsible for disclosing this favorable evidence even if he was unaware of it.”

The trial transcript and official court records shows “that the jury heard nothing about Pamela Jones and the fact that she saw Vincent at the J&J Snack Bar,” the motion says. “Pamela was never subpoenaed nor called as a witness. She also states in her signed affidavit that she never testified at trial nor did she speak to Vincent’s defense counsel. It would be inexplicable for the defense not to have used this evidence if they in fact had it in their possession at the time of the trial.”

Hjortsberg says, “A series of unorthodox and unexplained actions by the Avoyelles Parish District Attorney’s office prevented any reasonable possibility that Vincent Simmons’s trial attorney could have learned of the favorable evidence. Despite the fact that the office was called and physically approached by Pamela Jones—yet never documented her testimony nor made any mention of it to defense counsel—shows that they not only were aware of this favorable evidence but willfully withheld it from the defense.

“The state of Pamela Jones gives a detailed account of what time and day she arrived at the J&J Snack Bar, when Vincent arrived at the snack bar, what time Vincent arrived, what Vincent was doing when he arrived, and finally, what time Vincent left the bar, the motion says.

“The evidence withheld by the state would have been favorable to Vincent because it could have been used at trial to exculpate him—by demonstrating that Vincent could not have been in two places at once.”

Hjortsberg says that in Simmons’s case, the suppressed evidence “discredits the caliber and reliability of the state’s investigation and prosecution of Vincent, because it shows that the state zeroed in on one suspect with little to no investigation despite the weakness of the evidence against him. The suppressed evidence shows that investigators were aware that a credible alibi witness had come forward on Vincent’s behalf and (they) did nothing. It further shows that they had no interest in finding who actually committed these acts but rather focused solely on closing the case as quickly as possible.”

He said that while he is disappointed at the failure of prison officials to follow through on transporting Simmons to his hearing, “The hearing will be held and I’m confident that Vincent will be granted a new trial based on this new information and I don’t think he will be convicted again.”

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