A man serving life for killing a friend with an errant bullet at age 15 during a botched robbery of a New Orleans East security guard will one day walk free under a deal with prosecutors.
Jeremy Burse's sentence of life without the possibility of parole attracted criticism because he was so young when he killed his friend in September 2010 and because no one disputed that it was an accident.
The U.S. Supreme Court has said that such sentences should be reserved for the “worst of the worst” juveniles who have demonstrated “irretrievable depravity.”
Burse, 23, was convicted of murder after a 2013 trial. Criminal District Court Judge Byron C. Williams gave him a life term last year, but the deal reached Friday paved the way for the judge to impose a 25-year sentence instead.
A pair of teenagers walked up to a security guard in a New Orleans East apartment complex on a September night in 2010, scheming to rob him of…
In exchange, Burse pleaded guilty to an amended charge of manslaughter. The judge gave him credit for the more than seven years he has already served behind bars.
The deal came as defense attorney Christopher Murell sought to win Burse a new trial because of missing court transcripts. If the judge had granted his request, prosecutors would have been forced to retry a murder case unlike most others at the criminal courthouse.
Police said that Burse and Anthony Davis, 16, were trying to rob a security guard at the Willowbrook apartment complex on Sept. 10, 2010.
The scheme went off the rails. Davis shot the guard as he ran away. Then Burse fired a round that somehow hit his friend in the heart and killed him.
New Orleans prosecutors said that in the weeks leading up to Friday's hearing, they brokered two meetings between Burse’s parents and Davis' mother.
Assistant District Attorney Laura Cannizzaro Rodrigue said the exchanges were part of a nascent “restorative justice” program she is spearheading at the District Attorney’s Office.
“We viewed this case as an opportunity to help close those wounds and bring together two families in our community that had been divided by a very emotional trial,” she said.
The mediator role was an about-face for Rodrigue, who told the judge last year that Burse did not deserve a chance at parole because he had shown no signs of remorse.
After hours of discussions Friday, Rodrigue told the judge the families had reached an agreement. Davis’ mother, Gilda Davis, and Burse’s mother sat side by side as the judge delivered the shorter sentence.
An Orleans Parish judge on Thursday handed a life prison sentence with no chance of parole to Jeremy Burse, who was 15 when he fired a single …
With tears streaming from her eyes, Gilda Davis hugged her son’s killer outside the courtroom as Burse was led away to return to his cell in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.
"I have kids. I can't harbor anger and hatred," she said.
But in a phone call hours later, Davis said she was disappointed Burse will not sit in prison for life.
"I really didn’t know that all of this was going to unfold on today," she said. “I did not tell them to cut a deal with him. That didn’t sit well with me at all."
Rodrigue said she had cautioned Davis, as she does the family of every homicide victim, that a new trial could be risky.
“She definitely knew that the goal was to reach a resolution today,” Rodrigue said. “There’s always a concern in retrying an old case, and this case had very interesting fact patterns.”
Davis said she was left feeling disillusioned.
“It was out of my control as to what happened. I have no control with what the court, laws, what they want to do,” she said. “Will I eventually forgive Jeremy? I have to if I want to live with myself, because I live according to the word of God.”