OPELOUSAS — The St. Landry Parish man accused of stabbing a woman to death and killing a Sunset police officer made his first court appearance on Wednesday in a hearing on evidence disclosure and grand jury proceedings in his case.
Three representatives from the New Orleans-based nonprofit Louisiana Capital Assistance Center were in court with Harrison Riley, 35, in the third hearing since his arrest in the deaths of Shameka Johnson, 41, and Sunset Police Officer Henry Nelson, 52.
State Judge Jason Meche held off making a decision on a motion by Riley’s attorneys requesting prosecutors disclose evidence before trial and “in a timely manner.” He said instead he’ll allow the two parties to negotiate a time frame he’ll consider later.
Meche denied a separate motion by Riley’s attorneys to have the grand jury meetings recorded. They are usually held in secret.
Riley’s been in jail since the Aug. 26 killings on first-degree murder, first-degree murder of a police officer and other counts. Should a grand jury indict Riley on either, he’ll face life in prison or execution if convicted.
Two days after Riley’s arrest, New Orleans attorney Christine Lehmann, of the Capital Assistance Center, appeared at his probable cause hearing and filed several motions on his client’s behalf, including the two heard on Wednesday.
Although no formal motion had been filed, prosecutors took issue in court with one of the motions — one that prevents scientific testing in the case without notifying Riley’s attorneys.
Lehmann said the motion, signed and ordered by Meche, is to alert the defense team to any scientific testing being done in the case so defense attorneys can bring in experts of their own to conduct their own tests, if possible.
Some evidence is destroyed in the scientific testing process, but some materials are ample enough to be tested by two parties, according to arguments made by both sides at the hearing.
Assistant District Attorney Don Richard protested the judge’s order on the testing procedures at Wednesday’s hearing, saying it is preventing them from moving forward in the case.
“I don’t find any authority at all for the court to inject itself into the scientific analysis,” Richard told the judge.
Meche said he’ll take the matter up again once prosecutors file a motion in the court record.
Meche also denied Riley’s request to visit with his wife, Courtney Jolivette — one of three more people Riley is accused of stabbing and injuring that night during what police have described as a drug-fueled rage at his relatives’ Anna Street home.
Although the Wednesday hearing marked the third time representatives for Riley appeared before the judge on his behalf, he hadn’t attended those hearings as he underwent medical evaluation.
Johnson is sister to Grand Coteau Mayor Shaterral Johnson, who confronted Riley after the hearing as deputies escorted him from the courtroom to the jail.
With a picture of her sister’s body in a casket displayed on her smartphone’s screen, the mayor shouted to Riley — her first cousin — “I hope you know what you did!”
Noting the Johnson family and he had known each other all their lives, Riley responded: “You know that wasn’t me.”
Riley is accused of fatally stabbing Shameka Johnson and using the knife to injure her sister, her mother and Jolivette, his wife, at the home on Anna Street. When Nelson, the police officer, arrived at the scene, Riley managed during a struggle to grab Nelson’s gun and shoot and kill him, police have said.
Authorities then became involved in a more than two-hour standoff with Riley, who had driven a car stolen from one of his relatives through the Sunset Mini Mart’s storefront on Napoleon Avenue. He hid in an office, ignoring State Police negotiators, police reported, before officers flushed him out with tear gas and arrested him. Another two people were injured somewhere along the way, and the store ultimately caught fire amid the wreckage.
Riley is being held at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.