EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Now that the jury selection for Grover Cannon’s trial is starting over, many other court cases in East Baton Rouge Parish could be put on hold.
In October of 2015, a Caddo Parish grand jury indicted Cannon for allegedly killing Shreveport Police Officer Thomas LaValley, who was responding to a suspicious person call in Shreveport.
Earlier in 2019, jury selection in the death penalty case was moved to East Baton Rouge Parish in order to protect Cannon’s constitutional right to a fair trial by an unbiased jury, but his attorneys raised questions about the process in which the jury pool was selected when it was learned no one under the age of 26 was called to potentially serve as a juror due to a computer glitch.
Cannon’s lawyers argued before the trial court and Louisiana’s 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals that the jury pool should be thrown out and a new pool selected because excluding an entire age group of people violated state law and Cannon’s constitutional rights.
While both lower courts disagreed, the Louisiana Supreme Court sided with Cannon on April 18, tossing out the jury pool, which had been narrowed to less than 70 people, and sending the case back to the trial court to start over.
EBR District Attorney Hillar Moore says due to all this, he expects many defendants will seek a hold in their trial while the jury issue is sorted out. He says it could be 45 days before jury trials start again in the parish.
He says the delay will likely affect a handful of cases. One of those cases belongs to Defense Attorney Jarrett Ambeau. His client’s case was slated to begin Monday, April 22.
"My client is a young man. He’s within that age group, so he would not be tried by a jury of his peers,” Ambeau said. "We went to the court and talked to the court and the state joined in my continuance to say, ‘Judge, we don’t think that we have a representative jury and I feel like if we try this case right now, it’s coming back.’”
Moore says he hopes the issue will be resolved by summer.
"We believe that that can be fixed by June 1 and that we’ll be back to normal jury selection with a fully panel of jurors,” Moore said.
He does not expect the decision to affect cases that have already been tried, however, Ambeau says he has concerns about one of his previous client’s convictions.
“My client was tried with a jury that didn’t constitute what was a jury of his peers or a fully representative jury of the community in which he lived,” Ambeau said. “That’s an underpinning of our constitution in that he deserves the due process or the process right to be tried by a jury that is representative of the community.”
Moore says he’s pushing for that June 1 date, but he’s not rushing the fix.
"I mean, we have to do it right, and this system we have to get it right every time,” Moore said.
Until it’s made right, Ambeau says his client, whose trial has been delayed, is sitting, waiting in a jail cell.
"Is that fair to him? Is that due process? Is that fair and fundamental?” he asked.
Ambeau says he expects to go to trial sometime in August.