Louisiana’s highest court put an end Friday to condemned serial killer Derrick Todd Lee’s state court appeals, more than a decade after he was convicted and sentenced to death in the brutal 2002 slaying of 22-year-old LSU graduate student Charlotte Murray Pace in her Baton Rouge home.
The state Supreme Court said it found no error in state District Judge Richard Anderson’s August 2014 ruling that rejected Lee’s request for a new trial.
The high court also stated it found “no basis” for sending the case back to Anderson for an evidentiary hearing and “no grounds” for throwing out his first-degree murder conviction and death sentence.
“That’s awesome. That’s wonderful news. I’m so stunned,” Pace’s mother, Ann Pace, said when told of the action taken by the Louisiana Supreme Court. “It’s been 11 years (since the 2004 trial). I had almost given up hope that it would finish this second part.”
Lee’s attorney, Capital Post-Conviction Project of Louisiana director Gary Clements, said he will now take Lee’s case to U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge for the federal post-conviction relief stage — a stage that can take years.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling is a huge step toward final resolution as we have finally completed all appeals and post-conviction relief at the state level,” East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said. “I only hope that post-conviction proceedings at the federal level will move quickly and that the state Supreme Court’s ruling will ease some of the frustration that the families are feeling.”
Justice Scott Crichton wrote Friday that evidence showing Lee killed Pace in a “brutal and vicious manner” was both overwhelming and horrific. She was stabbed 81 times with a knife and screwdriver; her throat was slashed; and a clothing iron was used to bludgeon her head, fracture her skull and crush her eyeballs, he noted.
“This writ denial marks the end of Lee’s state court proceedings, finally bringing some measure of closure to the families of the multiple victims that have been irreparably affected by his hideous crimes,” Crichton stated.
At the penalty phase of Lee’s trial in the killing of Pace, East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutors introduced evidence of four other murders that he allegedly committed: Pam Kinamore, Gina Wilson Green and Carrie Lynn Yoder, all of Baton Rouge, and Trineisha Dene’ Colomb, of Lafayette.
Lee, 46, of St. Francisville, claims — among other things — that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at the guilt and penalty phases of his trial in Baton Rouge. Clements also contends Lee was incompetent when he was put on trial, and that Lee is mentally ill and brain-damaged and cannot be executed.
DNA linked Lee to the murder of Pace, but Clements on Friday characterized the DNA evidence as highly questionable.
The state Supreme Court disagreed.
“(Lee) has alleged there existed significant doubt as to the presence of sperm on Pace’s body and that only unreliable evidence linked him to the other victims,” the high court said. “Other than mere technical allegations, (Lee) does not assert or provide any evidence suggesting he should have been excluded as the source of the DNA recovered from Pace or the other victims.”
Julia Naylor, a DNA analyst at the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab, testified at Lee’s trial that the probability of Lee being randomly matched with the genetic profile recovered from Pace’s body was 1 in 3.6 quadrillion, the court added.
Pace was killed May 31, 2002, in her Sharlo Avenue home. Authorities testified she had been raped in addition to being bludgeoned and repeatedly stabbed.
Lee also was found guilty at another trial of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in the January 2002 slaying of Geralyn Barr DeSoto, of Addis.
Diane Alexander, of Breaux Bridge, who Lee attempted to rape and kill, testified against Lee at the DeSoto and Pace trials.