A federal judge has refused to take out of a jury’s hands the question of whether a cold-case detective defamed Baton Rouge lawyer Joel Porter by stating in a March 2014 search warrant affidavit that Porter has always been a suspect in his wife’s unsolved 1985 stabbing death.
Porter was asking U.S. District Judge John deGravelles to rule now in Porter’s favor, but the judge declined.
Porter’s defamation lawsuit against John Dauthier, a Baton Rouge police cold-case homicide detective, is set for trial in April.
“For now, the Affidavit can be reasonably said to raise jury issues as to the requisite nexus between the crime committed and the object to be seized,” deGravelles wrote Wednesday in a 31-page ruling.
The search warrant was used by Dauthier to collect a DNA sample from Porter.
Steve Irving, one of Porter’s attorneys, said Monday that the judge may be asked to reconsider his decision.
Porter and his lawyers contend the search warrant application Dauthier submitted to state District Judge Mike Erwin fails to state sufficient facts to support the seizure of Porter’s DNA.
Irving argued to deGravelles at an August hearing that the application states only that Joel Porter was Denise Washington Porter’s husband, that they lived together in the Lobdell Boulevard apartment where her body was found and that Porter “has always been a suspect” in her killing.
Porter claims he had been at work all night at the U.S. Post Office on Florida Boulevard before coming home the morning of March 14, 1985, to find his wife dead.
In a court filing Friday, Dauthier’s attorneys argue that Porter’s supervisor “did not state one way or the other that he recalled (Porter) being physically at work the entire night and morning or otherwise failed to provide an account minute-by-minute or hour-by-hour.”
Porter’s time sheet shows he started work at 11:56 p.m. on March 13, 1985, and ended his shift at 8:16 a.m. on March 14, 1985, according to detectives.
“There is no substantive evidence that establishes (Porter) must have been at work at the time of Denise’s murder,” Assistant Parish Attorney Michael Schillage contends in the filing Friday.
But Irving countered Monday, saying “the evidence was overwhelming that Joel was at work” when his wife was killed.
DeGravelles’ ruling indicates the crime scene contained bloody footprints in the kitchen, blood on the cold water faucet, a bloody rag and a scrub brush with what appeared to be bits of flesh adhered to it.
Detectives believe the killer washed his hands and weapon with some soap in the sink and took a shower after the murder.
Porter claims his wife was involved in multiple affairs, and that two of the men lived at the same apartment complex as the Porters. Joel Porter also says at least one paramour told homicide detectives that Denise Porter would spend time at these men’s apartments when her husband would go to work at night.
In their Friday filing, Dauthier’s attorneys maintain Joel Porter’s marital problems establish a “plausible motive of an indignant spouse.”
“It’s a plausible motive for one of the paramours to have committed the murder,” Irving countered.
Dauthier’s attorneys note that a man who spoke with Denise Porter on the telephone the night of the murder says she had her bags packed to leave for her sister’s home in Houston and was going to leave that night, but Joel Porter told her to wait until morning when he got home.