A judge refused Monday to dismiss the state from a lawsuit that claims the state and city-parish failed to provide adequate security at the annual Fourth of July festivities along the downtown riverfront in 2007, when two bystanders were paralyzed by gunfire.
Andrew Blanchfield, a special assistant attorney general who represents the state, the Louisiana Naval War Memorial Commission and the Louisiana Veterans Memorial Foundation, said he will ask the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal to review state District Judge Janice Clark’s latest ruling.
It is the second time Clark has rejected the state’s request to be dismissed from the case. The appeals court affirmed her previous ruling.
The judge ruled in the fall of 2011 that the management of the crowd at the July 4, 2007, events is an issue to be determined by a jury. She again ruled Monday that genuine issues of material fact remain.
“We’re still in the saddle,” Michael Palmintier, who represents Jennifer Scallan and her paralyzed daughter Kayla Smith in the suit, said after the hearing.
He said the suit could go to trial late next year.
Smith and Robert M. Blunschi Jr., who were 16 and 21, respectively, at the time, were leaving the annual fireworks show that night when they got caught in an exchange of gunfire while they walked atop the Mississippi River levee near the USS Kidd Veterans Memorial & Museum.
Smith suffered serious spinal cord injuries in the shooting; Blunschi was shot in the head and suffered brain damage.
Attorneys for the state and city-parish contend neither entity owed a duty to Smith to protect her from the “random’’ and “unforeseeable’’ criminal acts of an unknown third party. The attorneys also claim there was ample security and lighting at the July 4, 2007, event on the riverfront.
Devin Collins and Marvin Brown, both of Baton Rouge, initially were charged with attempted second-degree murder and criminal conspiracy in the shooting.
State District Judge Chip Moore acquitted Collins of the conspiracy charge but found him guilty of two counts of aggravated battery in April 2009. He sentenced Collins to 12 years in prison. Brown pleaded no contest in August 2009 to an amended charge of conspiracy to commit aggravated battery. The judge sentenced him to two years in prison, giving him credit for the 21 months he had served since his arrest. Brown was released shortly thereafter from Parish Prison.
Collins did not wound either victim when he fired a .25-caliber pistol into the crowd that night but was “actively involved’’ in the shootout, the 1st Circuit later ruled in affirming Collins’ conviction and sentence.
Prosecutors also acknowledged Brown was not the shooter, but said his DNA was found on a 9 mm pistol discovered near the Kidd memorial and museum. Prosecutors said Smith’s and Blunschi’s injuries were consistent with a 9 mm bullet. Eleven 9 mm shell casings found at the scene were traced back to the gun, prosecutors noted.