Judge grants new trial request from man convicted of vehicular homicide in 'road rage' crash

Judge grants new trial request from man convicted of vehicular homicide in 'road rage' crash - 6 p.m.

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The man convicted of vehicular homicide in what officials called a "road rage" crash that killed five people, including three children, will get a new trial after a judge granted his motion Friday morning.

It was an emotional day in court for both sides. David Leger, 33, of Palmetto, was silent as he walked out of district court on Friday, his wife by his side.

Leger was convicted in July on five counts of vehicular homicide in the deadly crash that happened in Baton Rouge in 2011. After being found guilty by a jury, Leger avoided sentencing through a number of legal maneuvers.

The most recent ones were his requests for acquittal and for a new trial. Judge Chip Moore denied the motion for acquittal, but granted the request for a new trial, which overturned his vehicular homicide convictions.

Leger's attorney, Jim Boren, argued that because a judge failed to record a conversation, which included his objection to some of the instructions the jury was given, then his client should be granted a new trial.

"The failure to give that did not allow the jury to proper information to determine the guilt or innocence of David," Boren said.

Moore granted the new trial on that technicality, but was very adamant in his ruling to say he believes Leger is guilty and also believes the jury was right in its guilty verdicts.

"He [Judge Chip Moore] made it very clear that this gentleman is guilty and should have been found guilty and the blame is that the judge - at no fault of any victims family or witness or prosecutors office - the judge failed to record a conference regarding a jury instruction, which shouldn't have been given," said District Attorney Hillar Moore.

The crash happened on I-10 East between Highland Road and Manchac Bayou on March 13, 2011. The jury found Leger caused the deaths of five people during a road rage incident.

Authorities said Leger was intoxicated when he and another driver chased one another down the interstate. Leger clipped that car, lost control, crossed the median, and hit another car head-on. His blood alcohol concentration was 0.1, which is over the legal limit of 0.08.

The victims were:

Liz Fontenot, 29 
Kimberly Stagg, 19
Keagan Fontenot, 11
Hunter Johnson, 7
Austin Fontenot, 3

Moore referenced much of the trial's evidence and testimony in his ruling, reiterating it was clear that Leger's actions caused those deaths. However, Moore could not deny that a part of the legal process, for whatever reason, was not followed.

Leger's defense attorney, Jim Boren, said all he wants is for the right steps to be taken.

"What I'm looking for is that the process be done fairly and according to the rules and if the process is fair and due process is given, then we accept whatever results there are," Boren said. "We think there's valid grounds for him to be found not guilty."

Boren said he has gathered some new information he believes could work in Leger's favor.

"There was testimony I believe that could be presented at a new trial that the jury did not hear at the first trial," Boren said.

Boren did not discuss specifics, but D.A. Moore said prosecutors are prepared for the next go around.

"We're not going away. We'll be back," Moore said.

It was obviously a difficult day for the families of the five victims.

"We just disagree with the ruling, and it's one of those things that happen. I just feel bad for the family now. It's another setback. They are reliving these deaths all over again," Moore said.

A new trial date has not yet been set, but a status hearing for the new trial is scheduled for the first week of May. If convicted on all five counts of vehicular homicide in the new trial, Leger could face up to 30 years in prison on each count.

Louisiana State Police reported Kelsye Hall was driving a sport utility vehicle and Leger was driving a truck. Troopers said Hall was driving ahead of Leger on I-10 West and for some distance, they were both driving recklessly.

It is believed Leger tried to pass Hall, but she wouldn't let him. Investigators suspect Leger's truck clipped the front of Hall's SUV, which sent him across the median. Authorities said the truck collided head-on with the Acura the victims were riding in and the car burst into flames.

Hall was also convicted in the crash. She is currently on probation and parole supervision after serving her prison sentence. She was convicted in August 2013 of five counts of negligent homicide. She was sentenced in October 2013 to two years in prison for her role in the crash. She was released from prison on July 6, 2014. She is on probation until 2019.

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