Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Larry Jefferson erred by granting a second trial to a Monroe man convicted of second-degree murder, an appeal court ruled Tuesday.
Michael Lorenzo Barnett Jr. could not stand for a new trial because his motion for a new trial was untimely, the Second Circuit Court of Appeal ruled March 13.
Second Circuit judges Jeff Cox, Frances Pitman and Felicia Williams signed off on the ruling, which also remanded the case to Jefferson for sentencing.
Tuesday was not the first time the Second Circuit has reversed Jefferson in State of Louisiana v. Michael Barnett.
Barnett was originally found guilty of second-degree murder in August 2016 after a bench trial before Jefferson, but Jefferson changed Barnett’s conviction in January 2017, reducing it from second-degree murder to manslaughter. In April 2017, the Second Circuit reinstated the second-degree murder conviction, a decision the state Supreme Court upheld.
Barnett’s case was remanded to Jefferson last year for sentencing, but Jefferson granted Barnett’s motion for a new trial instead.
In general, a defendant is allowed only one motion for a new trial. Barnett filed four, including one which was withdrawn and another which Jefferson denied.
“Although the trial court may allow the defendant to supplement his motion or to file an additional motion, this must be done prior to the court’s ruling on the motion,” stated the Second Circuit’s March 13 opinion. “The instant motion was required to have been filed before the trial court’s ruling denying defense counsel’s motion and was therefore untimely.”
If Barnett seeks to challenge the sufficiency of evidence, he could do so on appeal after sentencing, the Second Circuit ruled.
The state’s sentencing guidelines require automatic life in prison without the benefit of probation, parole or suspension for anyone convicted of second-degree murder. Manslaughter has no mandatory sentence. Judges have the discretion to set the sentence at any length — including no time served — as long as the sentence does not exceed 40 years in prison.
Barnett’s conviction stemmed from a Dec. 21, 2011 shooting. Barnett shot and killed Andre Alexander, a family acquaintance, in the Tanglewood Subdivision area. Barnett and the victim were reportedly arguing in the victim’s front yard when Barnett went to his car, started to drive off, but then pulled out a gun and approached Alexander.
Alexander ran from his Tanglewood Drive home to Dellwood Drive with Barnett pursuing and firing his handgun.
Alexander was hit five times and fell dead in a ditch on Dellwood, as reported by investigators. There were numerous witnesses to the shooting who knew Barnett and Alexander.