The families of both the victim and the defendant in Bobby Isidore’s second-degree murder trial quietly wiped away tears Thursday as the jury delivered its verdict: guilty of murder and not guilty of obstruction of justice in the shooting death of Leighton Powe Jr.
Isidore and Felix Adams, the gunman in a St. Tammany Parish robbery-turned-murder, have now both been found guilty.
A second-degree murder conviction carries a life sentence. Isidore, 21, will be sentenced July 27.
Adams was convicted of second-degree murder in February.
Isidore’s lawyer, Jim Burke, called no witnesses in the trial that began Tuesday in 22nd Judicial District Court Judge Allison Penzato’s courtroom. In closing arguments, as in his opening statement, he told the jury that he hoped to convince them that his client should be convicted only of manslaughter, a lesser charge.
That would be justice, he said, pointing out that a third defendant, Trenton Johnson, ultimately pleaded guilty to manslaughter for having played a similar role in the crime. Johnson drove the vehicle in which Powe was shot outside a Dollar General store in Slidell on Sept. 7, 2013.
Burke told the jury that his client, like Johnson, was shocked when Adams fired the gun. There was little difference between Johnson’s actions in the crime and those of Isidore, he said.
Burke also raised the question of race, asking why Isidore, who is black, was charged with a more serious offense than Johnson, who is white.
“An all-white jury is judging an African-American man. That’s not your fault; it’s not the court’s fault. It’s just demographics, right?” Burke said to the jury of eight women and four men.
“But he sits here, and he looks and wonders, ‘Why am I being treated differently than Trenton Johnson?’ ”
He said other white people who were involved in the case also received lenient treatment, pointing to Powe’s girlfriend and his best friend, who had accompanied him to the drug deal that ended in his murder.
Assistant District Attorney Julie Knight rejected Burke’s line of reasoning.
“Bobby Isidore is not on trial because he’s black” but because of his actions that day, she told the jury.
She insisted that the role Isidore played was significantly different from that of Johnson, stressing that Isidore held Powe and struggled violently with him.
Isidore was holding Powe when Adams shot him in the head, she said.
The only role that race played in the crime, Knight said, was in the decision to enlist Johnson in the first place.
The people planning the robbery wanted a white man in the driver’s seat so their target would have his guard down, she said.
The jury deliberated about two hours, at one point asking Penzato to clarify what is required for a charge of obstruction of justice.
Isidore’s family, who spent a few minutes in the courtroom after the trial saying goodbye to the defendant, declined comment, as did Burke.
Powe’s parents, Lana and Leighton Powe Sr., and his sister Roxanne were visibly relieved but also somber as they discussed the verdict.
“Justice was served,” Powe’s father said. “He’s going to pay the price, but my son paid with his life. They took advantage on an unarmed, unsuspecting person.”
Still, he added that he felt deep sympathy for Isidore’s family, which also is losing a child.
“They can still talk to their son, although it will be through glass. I’ve got to go talk to a piece of marble,” he said.
Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.