THIBODAUX, Louisiana — A man charged in the Nov. 4, 2012, stabbing deaths of a Lockport woman and her two daughters could still face the death penalty in Lafourche Parish if convicted.
The Courier reports (http://bit.ly/ZC6QiV ) Judge Jerome Barbera on Monday rejected defense attorneys' motions to rule out the death penalty for 36-year-old David Brown. He also denied the defense's request that the trial be moved out of Lafourche Parish.
Brown is set to stand trial April 20 in Thibodaux on three counts of first-degree murder. He is accused of killing 29-year-old Jacquelin Nieves and her daughters, 7-year-old Gabriela and 1-year-old Izabela, in the family's apartment.
The New Orleans-based Capital Defense Project of Southeast Louisiana argued that capital punishment violates modern decency, isn't applied consistently and that innocent people have been sentenced to die. Defense attorneys also cited a statute they say doesn't require prosecutors to prove death is the appropriate penalty.
"Jurors tend to make up the scheme on their own if they're not very precisely guided," defense attorney Dwight Doskey said.
The defense also asked Barbera to bar the death penalty because of factors outside of Brown's control. Brown was without a death penalty-certified attorney for four months after the killings.
Brown's team requested the trial be moved out of Lafourche on the claim that residents have prejudged Brown as guilty and worthy of death. Though Brown has the right to a fair trial, Barbera said jurors may still have some knowledge of the case.
"The defendant is not entitled to a jury completely ignorant of his case," he said, and there's "no established minimum level of exposure to negative publicity."
Kerry Cuccia, leading the defense team, requested allegations of aggravated arson and rape be excluded from the trial. Because the case is based on circumstantial evidence, Cuccia said, jurors would have to assume the same person committed each of the crimes, which led to the killings.
"The jury has to speculate ... and that is something that we know the law doesn't allow," he said.
Barbera ruled in favor of prosecutors with the Lafourche Parish District Attorney's Office, who contended that multiple pieces of evidence linking Brown to the killings would work together in the case.
Information from: The Courier, http://www.houmatoday.com