John Floyd, sentenced to life behind bars, could be released from prison this month, 35 years after a judge convicted him of murdering a Times-Picayune proofreader.
Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's office on Friday agreed to Floyd's release pending its appeal of a federal judge's ruling last month vacating Floyd's 1982 conviction in the French Quarter murder of William Hines. He has been in prison since 1981.
Floyd's release would come with conditions. He must live on a Lafayette-area farm, stay in Louisiana and report weekly to a federal probation office.
In exchange, Floyd's attorneys with the Innocence Project New Orleans have agreed to a stay of U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance's order last month calling for Cannizzaro's office to either retry Floyd within 120 days or set him free.
The agreement to release Floyd, should Vance accept it, would allow Cannizzaro's office to avoid having to retry a decades-old murder case by September or else see him released without conditions as it asks the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn her order.
A federal judge in New Orleans is poised to throw out the murder conviction of a 67-year-old…
Floyd's attorneys had been seeking his release without bail while the appeals process plays out. A hearing on that motion, and on Cannizzaro's bid to stay Vance's order and block Floyd's release, is scheduled for June 22.
Prosecutors had argued that, given the clear stakes of the appeal — freedom or a return to life in prison — releasing Floyd "presents a significant risk that (he) will abscond" if Vance's order is overturned or the DA's Office decides to retry him.
The shift in approach, with Cannizzaro's office now accepting Floyd's release under conditions, came after Floyd, now 67, rejected a renewed offer for him to plead guilty to manslaughter and go free on credit for the 36 years he's already served.
He rejected a similar offer five years ago.
Floyd "talks a lot about being innocent," according to former Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola Warden Burl Cain, who vouched for Floyd's innocence and urged his release on bail in a recent affidavit.
Lawyers for a man whose conviction in the 1980 killing of a Times-Picayune proofreader was t…
"It is clear John Floyd should be released. It is long overdue. We look forward to helping him adjust to life after 36 years of wrongful imprisonment," said Emily Maw, director of the Innocence Project New Orleans. "He is obviously innocent. He needs to be home."
Vance's rulings in the case, along with the passage of decades, make retrying Floyd a doubtful prospect for Cannizzaro's office.
Vance ruled that no reasonable juror would have found Floyd guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in the bloody stabbing at Hines' home on Gov. Nicholls Street had they been made aware of evidence, including fingerprint test results, that she found the state withheld before his conviction.
Floyd, then a drug-addled drifter who traded sex for a bed, stood trial at the same time for two eerily similar murders that took place days apart: Hines' killing and that of Rodney Robinson, who was found fatally stabbed outside his blood-spattered room at the Fairmont Hotel.
In both cases, it appeared the stabbing victims had invited their killer back for drinks and sex.
John Floyd, who is serving a life sentence after he was convicted in the gory 1980 stabbing …
Former Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Jerome Winsberg convicted Floyd in a bench trial for Hines' murder but acquitted him in Robinson's killing.
Blood and hair evidence in Robinson's case pointed to a different killer, as did the statement of a hotel worker who saw a black man running from the scene. Floyd is white.
Vance noted that Floyd, who has an IQ of 59, admitted to both murders in a dual confession that she argued was tainted throughout by the evidence — mostly in Robinson's killing.
In its appeal, Cannizzaro's office plans to argue that Vance overstepped the law when she found that evidence of Floyd's "actual innocence" rose to a level warranting a rare exception to rules that normally bar such long-after-the-fact legal challenges.
Prosecutors also argue that Floyd hasn't proved that evidence that turned up long after his conviction represents a violation of Brady v. Maryland, the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that requires the state to turn over all evidence favorable to a defendant.
Floyd's attempts to overturn his conviction in the state courts failed, and prosecutors argue that Vance "has erroneously substituted (her) judgment for that of the state courts."