A state judge declared a mistrial Wednesday, then withdrew it and said he would issue another ruling Thursday in the second-degree murder case of a 25-year-old Baton Rouge man accused in the September 2010 shooting death of a man at the Myrtle Place Apartments.
The alleged shooter, Dominique Lamar Rivers, and the victim, 37-year-old Derrick Lucas Sr., both lived at the complex on Boulevard De Province off Old Hammond Highway.
After two days of jury selection, former Myrtle Place tenant Gregory Henry testified Wednesday that he watched Lucas enter Lucas’ apartment the morning of Sept. 2, 2010, then saw Rivers run from the apartment, followed shortly thereafter by a dazed and bleeding Lucas.
Henry testified that just minutes later he saw an armed Rivers return and force Lucas back into Lucas’ apartment through the front door.
Henry said he then heard three shots ring out “boom boom boom.”
The mistrial issue arose Wednesday afternoon shortly after Margaret Lagattuta, one of Rivers’ attorneys, objected at one point to prosecutor Steve Danielson’s questioning of Henry. During a private bench conference involving prosecutors, Rivers’ lawyers and state District Judge Chip Moore, Lagattuta said she learned Henry had made certain statements to police that were not disclosed to the defense.
At the conclusion of the bench conference, and with jurors not in the courtroom, Lagattuta returned to the defense table and requested a mistrial. She said Henry told police that a white woman who lived in the apartment complex was walking behind Rivers shortly before the shooting and ran when the shots were fired.
Henry made no mention of the unidentified woman during his trial testimony. Henry’s statements about the woman were not in a police report turned over to the defense.
Portions of Henry’s taped police statement then were played in court — with jurors still absent — so the judge could issue a ruling on Lagattuta’s mistrial motion. In that statement, Henry also stated that Rivers broke into Lucas’ apartment “from the back.” That statement also was not in the police report given to the defense.
Henry had made no mention of the back door in his trial testimony, saying only that Rivers already was in Lucas’ apartment when Lucas returned home from work that morning.
Following a lengthy recess, Moore returned to the courtroom and declared a mistrial based on Henry’s statements about the white woman and the back door not being turned over to Rivers’ attorneys.
Danielson then requested a 24-hour stay and asked Moore to keep the jury empaneled so he could ask the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal to review his ruling. The prosecutor argued that Henry said the white woman walking behind Rivers was going somewhere else when the shots rang out. He also argued that Henry’s statements about the back door were nothing more than Henry “opining, believing, supposing” that Rivers must have initially entered Lucas’ apartment in that way.
After hearing those arguments, Moore said he would “hold off” ruling on the mistrial request and rule on the matter Thursday morning.
Earlier Wednesday, Danielson told the East Baton Rouge Parish jury in his opening statement that Lucas was shot three times in the head. District Attorney Hillar Moore III has said previously that Lucas was “executed.” Prosecutors believe Rivers was burglarizing Lucas’ apartment when Lucas came home early from work and surprised Rivers.
Scott Collier, one of Rivers’ attorneys, told the 12 jurors and two alternate jurors that Rivers is standing trial for a crime he did not commit.
Rivers faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison if convicted as charged.