BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A rare case that caused outrage has concluded with a reinstated murder conviction that will send a convicted man to prison for the rest of his life.
The case was profiled in a report by the 9News Investigators, which took a look into some of Judge Trudy White's cases.
In September of 2015, Derrick Bland was unanimously convicted of second degree murder by a jury in the shooting death of James Stockton. However, Judge White overruled the verdict and changed it to negligent homicide.
White said Bland was drunk and that the state did not prove that he had specific intent to kill Stockton. "We have been going through so much since we lost the king of our family," said Stockton's sister, Rosalind Ford.
Ford says her family finally has peace and her brother can rest now that the man accused of killing him will spend the rest of his life behind bars. "We're a close bonded family, so life has been tough without my brother," she added.
Second degree murder requires a person to spend the rest of their life in jail, while negligent homicide only has a maximum sentence of five years behind bars. After the ruling, East Baton Rouge Parish DA Hillar Moore brought the case to an appeals court to try to reverse Judge White's ruling.
"It's extremely rare for a court to take a verdict away from a jury, particularly in criminal cases. I've seen it maybe in some civil cases, but particularly with jury verdicts in criminal cases, extremely rare. Maybe a handful of cases in the 40 years that I've heard of," said Moore.
The appeals court issued its ruling, saying "we reverse the trial court's ruling granting the motion for post-verdict judgment of acquittal, reinstate the jury's verdict finding defendant guilty of second-degree murder."
"This appellate court found that the state proved their case and proved specific intent," said Moore.
One of the three appeal court judges went even further writing his own response, saying the "judge's decision in this case was an injustice to the victim, to the citizens of the state of Louisiana, and to our criminal justice system." The judge added that "to ignore the facts does not change the facts," and that the "judge's interpretation of the statute makes this case even more egregious."
The victim's aunt, Dianne Johnson, while pleased with Thursday's ruling, says the sentence is not enough for the man she calls a cold-blooded killer.
"He murdered my nephew. He don't deserve to live. I wish he could get the death penalty and they could just kill him in a chamber somewhere," said Johnson.
But what the family says was worse than their loved one being brutally murdered is how Judge Trudy White handled the case. "She the most cold-hearted judge I've ever met," said Ford.
While the judge agreed Thursday to comply, she maintains her original judgment was the right one. It's something family members say White made quite clear in court. "She beat my brother down because he smoked weed. All I heard was he was a weed head. James wasn't the person on trial. James was the victim of this," said Ford.
While it took a little bit longer than they hoped, the family members say justice for their loved one was worth the fight.
"I just thank God for the appeals court because without them, we would have been stuck. My brother would have just been another victim who lost his life and another man is out on the street for murder," Ford added.
Bland was re-sentenced Thursday, July 13 to life in prison without the benefit of probation or parole.