GONZALES — Gladys Mobley told an investigator she thought of her son when St. Amant High School student Luke Villar was gunned down nearly 14 years ago while sweeping the front of a St. Amant grocery store.
Mobley, now deceased, was a juror in the 2003 second-degree murder trial of Justin Granier — one of the men convicted in Villar’s slaying — and she never disclosed those feelings nor that her son had worked with Villar when attorneys conducted jury selection in the Ascension Parish case, Granier’s post-conviction appeal says.
But two years ago, Mobley told defense investigator Brad Scott that her son had stopped working at DeLaune’s Supermarket one week before the botched armed robbery that resulted in Villar’s murder on Sept. 15, 2001.
“During the course of our interview, Ms. Mobley repeatedly stated ‘It could have been my son’ or words to that effect referring to her son’s employment at the scene of the crime and similar age to the victim,” Scott says in a sworn affidavit.
Villar, who was 18 when he was killed, was shot twice in the back with a .30-30-caliber Marlin rifle by another man, Lucas Roddy. Roddy was convicted of second-degree murder in September 2002 and given a life sentence.
A cashier at the store, Angie Weber, was shot and wounded.
Questions about Mobley’s possible bias have formed the underpinnings of Granier’s attempts for a new trial nearly 12 years since Mobley and 11 other jurors found him guilty of second-degree murder.
Granier, 33, was given a mandatory life sentence.
For the past two years, state Judge Jessie LeBlanc, of the 23rd Judicial District, has been reviewing Granier’s appeal and appeared close to ruling whether Mobley should appear for an evidentiary hearing.
Appellate attorney Justin Harrell had argued in motions that Mobley may have felt a duty to protect the community from Granier, because she was so close to the incident.
“Indeed, her silence in the face of this critical information seems to suggest just such a motive,” Harrell wrote in June 2013.
Assistant District Attorney Chuck Long, who prosecuted Granier in 2003, argued that for Granier to force Mobley to the stand, he had to prove she made an inaccurate statement, such that, if the truth had been told, attorneys would have objected to Mobley’s being on the jury.
But Long argued Mobley was never directly asked about her son’s connection to Villar and did not make an inaccurate statement.
“It would be an abomination to allow anyone to make a juror come to court and be interrogated on their civic duty to serve on a jury without good cause,” Long wrote.
LeBlanc never got a chance to make that call.
It came to light earlier this year that Mobley, 64, of St. Amant, died late last year of natural causes, throwing the appeal process up in the air until Thursday at the Ascension Parish Courthouse Annex in Gonzales.
LeBlanc gave Harrell and Long about a month to file motions on whether Scott, the investigator who talked to Mobley two years ago, should be allowed to testify about what Mobley told him April 17, 2013.
LeBlanc set a hearing for May 18.
According to Scott’s affidavit, Mobley refused to sign an affidavit about her statements.
The courts generally frown on hearsay testimony, but exceptions exist. Both Harrell and Long said they expect the court will have to grapple with that question.
Harrell said Thursday that bias by even one juror is enough under the law to force a new trial.
Even if Harrell succeeds, though, court records and old news accounts show Granier gave conflicting statements to investigators about his level of involvement, but they all placed him at the scene of the murder.
Granier testified at trial he never got out of the car while Roddy and another man went to the store.
In one of his statements to deputies, which Granier later claimed was coerced, he said he was with Roddy when Roddy shot Villar.
Long said that under state law, defendants don’t have to be the person who pulled the trigger but can be principals to a slaying to be convicted of second-degree murder.
Betty Mobley, 78, of St. Amant, who is Gladys Mobley’s mother-in-law, declined to comment Thursday, saying she did not know about Mobley’s time on the Granier jury nor the proceedings currently in court.
She said Gladys Mobley’s son would not want to comment.