gavel

A judge's refusal to allow a murder defendant to take the stand may have paved the way for him to get a new trial.

An appeals court has tossed out the conviction of Ryan Poree in the triple shooting of his neighbors in New Orleans East.

A three-judge panel of the state 4th Circuit Court of Appeal said Wednesday that Poree, 29, is entitled to a new trial in the 2011 killing of siblings Kimberly and Alcee Perry. The shooting, which came at the end of a long-running feud, also left the Perrys’ 7-year-old nephew wounded.

Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Robin Pittman should have listened when Poree, whose lawyers at the time said he was insane, asked repeatedly to take the stand during his trial, the appeals court said.

Defense attorneys are generally reluctant to let their clients testify in their own defense.

The "issue is whether an accused is deprived of a fundamental constitutional right when, after repeatedly and unequivocally stating his desire to testify before closing arguments, he is denied that right,” the judges said.

Judge Edwin Lombard wrote the opinion. He was joined by Judges Daniel Dysart and Tiffany Chase.

Poree will not receive a new trial just yet, however. The District Attorney’s Office is appealing the ruling to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Prosecutors said the shooting happened shortly after Poree drove his truck wildly down Woodbine Drive. His neighbors feared that he would harm their young children, according to a nola.com account of the trial.

Kimberly Perry confronted Poree about his reckless driving. Hours later, Poree walked to his neighbors’ house with a .22-caliber rifle and opened fire. Kimberly and Alcee Perry were killed. Their young nephew was hit in the leg and abdomen.

Defense attorneys with the Orleans Public Defenders did not dispute the facts, instead arguing that their client was not guilty by reason of insanity.

The three-day trial was punctuated by complaints from Poree about not having the opportunity to take the stand, according to the appeals court.

As one forensic psychiatrist testified for the state, Poree said, “I didn’t understand, ya’ heard me? Put me on that stand.”

When the doctor stepped down, Poree continued. “Ms. Pittman, I want up on that stand. Straight up,” he said.

“I’m sorry,” the judge replied. She noted that Poree’s defense attorneys had already rested their case.

However, the 4th Circuit panel said that Pittman should have allowed Poree to testify because she had the power to allow his defense to present rebuttal evidence.

“As recognized by both the federal and state constitutions, a criminal defendant’s right to testify is fundamental,” the panel said.

The court ordered Pittman to grant Poree a new trial. The DA's Office is appealing that order.

Poree filed the initial appeal of his conviction. He was joined in subsequent pleadings by Katherine Mattes, the director of the Tulane Criminal Justice Clinic, and law students Ruston Pritchard and Drew Lafontant.

Follow Matt Sledge on Twitter, @mgsledge.

msledge@theadvocate.com | (504) 636-7432