Fifth Judicial District Attorney Mack Lancaster says his office plans to take writs to the state Supreme Court on an appeal court’s recent ruling that reversed a life imprisonment sentence for a Winnsboro man convicted of slaying a two-year-old child.
In July 2017, then-Fifth Judicial District Court Judge Terry Doughty sentenced Billy R. Meadows Jr. to life in prison under the state’s Habitual Offender Law, but the Second Circuit Court of Appeal in Shreveport vacated that sentence in an April 11 ruling.
The Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s office failed to provide enough evidence to enhance Meadows’ sentence from 40 years in prison at hard labor to life imprisonment, the Second Circuit ruled.
“I’m very disappointed in this decision,” Lancaster said. “This is a very bad man who needs to stay in jail for as long as we can hold him there. It was an atrocious crime.”
Under a plea agreement, Meadows pleaded guilty to second-degree cruelty to juveniles instead of the original charge of second-degree murder of his girlfriend’s two-year-old child. Though he was adjudicated a fourth felony offender in district court, Meadows’ habitual offender adjudication was reversed by the Second Circuit.
The Second Circuit noted that Meadows could again be adjudicated a habitual offender, providing an opportunity for his sentence to be enhanced from 40 years at hard labor to life imprisonment.
“It bears mention that Meadows’ current offense was particularly horrific,” wrote ad hoc Judge Jay McCallum in the Second Circuit’s ruling. “However, because the evidence was insufficient to prove that the (10-year) cleansing period did not expire, we are constrained by law to reverse Meadows’ adjudication as a habitual offender, vacate his sentence, and remand for further proceedings, where the deficiencies may yet be remedied.”
McCallum wrote the ruling on behalf of a three-judge panel also including Second Circuit judges Milton Moore and Frances Pitman.
“Because we find the evidence insufficient to support Meadows’ adjudication, we do not reach the question of whether his sentence was excessive,” McCallum wrote.
Lancaster confirmed the district attorney’s office would seek to bring evidence in support of adjudicating Meadows under the Habitual Offender Law.
“We may appeal their decision,” Lancaster said. “If that decision is upheld, we will absolutely bring him down for another habitual offender hearing.”
In January, the Second Circuit ruled that Meadows’ 40-year sentence was not grossly disproportionate to the severity of the crime. The Second Circuit’s opinion stated the victim’s injuries were “unconscionable, to say the least” and that Meadows was the “worst type of offender.”