Louisiana Criminal Defense Attorney
Elizabeth B. Carpenter — Representing clients in St. John, Orleans, Jefferson, Assumption, St. Tammany, St. Charles, Tangipahoa and Plaquemines Parishes.
Wrongful Convictions Should Bring
Maximum Compensation, Judge Rules
By Paul Purpura, The Times-Picayune
Three men who were wrongfully convicted of murdering an alleged crack dealer near Westwego in 1992 are entitled to the maximum $250,000 in compensation allowed by law for the years they spent in prison, a state judge ruled Thursday. Glenn Davis of Marrero, Larry Delmore Jr. of New Orleans and Terrence Meyers of Avondale, all about 40 years old, spent up to almost 16 years in prison for their second-degree murder convictions in the Aug. 3, 1992, death of Samuel George, 34, who was gunned down while standing at Cabildo Lane and East Claiborne Parkway.
The trio remained imprisoned until attorneys with the Innocence Project New Orleans uncovered evidence pointing to numerous inequities in their case, leading Jefferson Parish prosecutors to dismiss the casetwo years ago.
None of the three men could be reached for comment Thursday. Kristin Wenstrom, their Innocence Project New Orleans attorney who is handling the compensation, said the money “will provide them some assistance in their transition back to the free world.”
She noted, however, that they were imprisoned “during the prime years of lives, and nothing can fully compensate for that.”
Judge Robert Murphy of the 24th Judicial District Court, who presided over the petition for compensation, said in a judgment filed in court Thursday that evidence is “clear and convincing” that they are innocent, and that they are entitled to compensation “for the physical harm, injury and loss of life opportunities” the suffered.
His ruling is a key step in the compensation process, but it is not the final word.
The state Legislature still must appropriate the money through the Innocence Compensation Fund, and attorneys did not say Thursday whether a lawmaker will file for an appropriation during the session beginning Monday. Aside from that, Murphy also ordered that each of the men is eligible for up to $80,000 in educational and medical services.
Based on a rate of $25,000 per year, Davis would be entitled to $344,792 for the 13 years and 9 1/2 months he spent in prison, Murphy found. Delmore and Meyers were imprisoned 15 years and two months, for a total of $379,167, Murphy ruled.
State law, however, caps the award at $250,000, regardless of how long a wrongfully convicted person is imprisoned.
Efforts to increase the cap in recent years have been unsuccessful.
“Louisiana has the second-worst compensation funding in the nation,” Wenstrom said. “It is incumbent on the Louisiana Legislature to improve the compensation statute this season.”
The three men were wrongfully convicted by a Jefferson Parish jury in 1993 and sentenced to mandatory life sentences in prison. Davis’ conviction was tossed in February 2007, and while prosecutors initially intended to retry him for the murder, all three convictions eventually fell apart. A judge eventually ordered a new trial for all three, and prosecutors in 2010 dismissed the cases altogether.
Their convictions were based on a lone witness, Norman Jackson, who Murphy found “was a crack-addicted career criminal” on probation at the time he told deputies he saw the shooting. His testimony gained him favorable treatment by prosecutors in a criminal case, and his probation was not revoked despite numerous arrests, Murphy found.
Numerous witnesses later said Jackson was not where he claimed to be when he allegedly saw George gunned down, Murphy noted. Jackson was shot to death in New Orleans in 2003.
Evidence shows that Derek “Blake” Richardson of Avondale was the killer, and several people, including his former girlfriend, said in affidavits in recent years that Richardson admitted as much. Richardson also divulged he killed George in retaliation for his being shot seven times in July 1992 outside his Avondale home. Richardson also was murdered, in Avondale in 1993.
Murphy found “that it is highly probable, or more probable than not,” that Richardson shot George as part of an ongoing feud with a rival drug dealer, that Jackson lied to get lenient treatment from law enforcement, and that the alibi Davis, Delmore and Meyers provided at trial was solid.
Also, their original attorney, Anderson Council, also represented Richardson in a narcotics case and was aware he was suspected in the murder even while he defended the trio, creating a legal conflict, judges have found. The Louisiana attorney general’s office, which responds to all petitions for compensation, did not oppose the request, but also did not concede that Davis, Delmore and Meyers met the “clear and convincing standard” the law requires for an award, Murphy wrote.
Delmore was convicted as the shooter, and as Meyers the driver of the Oldsmobile from which shots were fired. Davis was accused of being in the back seat. They were free on bail during the trial, during which Davis and Meyers were beaten up outside the courthouse in Gretna. Delmore fled while the jury deliberated, and surrendered to a bounty hunter three days later.
When they were sentenced in September 1993, Delmore yelled out in court, proclaiming his innocence. Deputies shackled him and covered his mouth with tape.