LAFAYETTE — An appeals court on Wednesday tossed out the second-degree murder conviction of a Vermilion Parish man who shot his hunting partner, ruling that evidence the two men had argued in the past was not enough to prove the killing was intentional.
The state 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal instead handed down a judgment of negligent homicide against Quint Mire in the 2011 shooting death of 56-year-old Julian Gajan and sent the case back to the local court for resentencing.
Mire, who admitted taking crystal methamphetamine the day of the shooting, claimed he mistook Gajan for a deer.
Mire now faces up to five years in prison on the negligent homicide charge, rather than the life sentence he had received in the murder case.
Prosecutors plan to ask the state Supreme Court to review the case.
“We certainly disagree with the court’s decision since the jury heard all the evidence and found otherwise,” 15th Judicial District Attorney Mike Harson said in an email.
There were no witnesses to the shooting, but prosecutors offered testimony that the two men had fought a few months earlier over gasoline Gajan had allegedly stolen from Mire’s truck and that Mire might have been upset over money Gajan owed his family for crab traps, according to a summary of the case in the appeals court ruling.
Testimony at trial also included statements from a man who said Mire had once told him they could kill Gajan and “get away with it.”
On appeal, Mire’s attorney questioned the credibility of the witness, considering he had been cooperating with investigators in other cases in return for having charges dismissed.
Regardless, the appeals court judges found it unlikely that money was a motive.
“If (the) defendant shot the victim over unpaid money, he would not have left $527 in the victim’s wallet,” the appellate panel wrote in a 27-page ruling.
Prosecutors also pointed out that Mire left Gajan dead in the woods and did not admit to shooting him until three days later, even suggesting at one point that someone else might have killed Gajan.
“Nevertheless, none of these actions, while certainly odd for someone who had just killed a friend, suggest a motive for murder,” the appeals judges wrote.
Mire, who had known Gajan for at least 17 years, testified at trial that he did not speak up about the shooting because he was scared.
“I did not think at any point that Quint Mire murdered that guy,” said Mire’s attorney, Burton Paul Guidry. “It was simply compounded by Mr. Mire’s inability to deal with it for three days.”
The three-judge appeals panel voted 2-1 to overturn Mire’s second-degree murder conviction, with Justices Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux and Shannon J. Gremillion in the majority and Marc T. Amy dissenting.