GONZALES — More than 16 years after a state appeals court affirmed Stanley White’s negligent homicide sentence, he remains a free man.
Judge Jessie LeBlanc of the 23rd Judicial District Court suspended White’s two-year sentence Friday, placing him on two years of probation for his conviction in the 1994 death of 10-week-old Brittany Deville, of St. Amant. LeBlanc granted the state’s request for a stay of the start of White’s probation pending any appeals process.
White was a 19-year-old Donaldsonville resident when his vehicle collided with a car carrying Brittany’s family on Airline Highway near Gonzales on July 31, 1994. The infant, who was unrestrained, was ejected from the vehicle and later died from her injuries. White had a blood-alcohol content of 0.09 percent, which at the time was lower than the state’s threshhold for presumptive drunken driving.
White originally was booked on a count of driving while intoxicated, which was dropped, but later charged with vehicular homicide. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of negligent homicide in July 1995 and was sentenced to serve two years in prison. After an appeals court upheld his sentence, however, he never was taken into custody and didn’t serve his sentence.
White’s attorney, Steven Moore, argued in court Friday that his client should be awarded credit for what he’s accomplished since pleading guilty. He said White went on to obtain a marketing degree from Nicholls State University, didn’t try to evade capture or sentencing, had never been arrested again and had become a productive member of society.
“Did he avoid detection?” Moore asked. “Absolutely not. Did he get re-arrested? Absolutely not. All he did was stay home and wait and wait and wait.”
Louisiana Assistant Attorney General David Weilbaecher told the court he had no explanation for the lengthy delay between the time White should have been put in prison and when the state finally made a new motion in the case in July 2011. The case again sat dormant for nearly 20 months before the state filed another new motion to send White to prison.
“There’s no question somewhere about 17 years ago the judicial system let this family down,” said Kurt Wall, an assistant attorney general who worked the case with Weilbaecher.
The 23rd Judicial District Attorney’s Office turned the case over to the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office in late March. State District Judge Thomas Kliebert disqualified himself from hearing the matter because he was an assistant district attorney when White’s case was prosecuted, and the matter was randomly re-allotted to LeBlanc’s courtroom.
About 15 of Brittany’s relatives, many wearing buttons displaying a photo of Brittany, attended Friday’s hearing, where both Wall and Weilbaecher pleaded with LeBlanc to provide the Deville family with some justice for the death of their little loved one.
“Mr. Stanley White owes Brittany Deville 24 months,” Weilbaecher said. “He owes it to this dead girl, and he owes it to her family.
“That’s why we’re here, to make certain he pays the price for what he did wrong. He never had to pay the price.”
LeBlanc, however, ruled that enforcing the sentence now would be an “inordinate delay” that would violate “the fundamental principles of liberty and justice.” She choked up when explaining to Brittany’s family the reasons behind her ruling.
“There’s absolutely nothing that I can say or do here today that will mend the broken hearts of a mother and a father,” the judge said before adding that, “two wrongs do not make a right.”
Weilbaecher and Wall objected to LeBlanc’s ruling, saying they planned to file an appeal with the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal. They have 10 days to file a written notice of appeal.
Rachel Deville, the infant’s mother, said she was frustrated by Friday’s ruling but was determined to continue seeking justice for her daughter. “It’s heartbreaking that someone in this courthouse just won’t give us justice, so we’ll move on.”
White, who didn’t speak at the hearing, declined to comment on Friday’s ruling.