A Louisiana state appeals court has affirmed the murder conviction and sentence of mandatory life in prison without parole for the Denham Springs man who injected his girlfriend with heroin hours before her overdose death in 2013.
Jarret McCasland will appeal again to the Louisiana Supreme Court, said his lawyer Chris Alexander, who argues Louisiana's law mandates a cruel and unusual punishment for a defendant he described as a drug addict who had no intent to kill.
"I believe that Louisiana's sentencing scheme is grossly inconsistent with the prevailing sentencing scheme throughout the country," Alexander said Wednesday. "There is clearly a national consensus that sentencing a defendant to die at Angola with no possibility of parole under these facts is cruel, unusual and unconstitutional."
Jarret McCasland, now 28, was convicted in November 2015 of second-degree murder in the death of his girlfriend, 19-year-old Flavia Cardenas, under a rarely used statute that holds people accountable if a person "distributes or dispenses" the drug that directly leads to an overdose death. According to the statute, anyone convicted of second-degree murder, which also includes people who shoot or forcefully kill with or without intent, are subject to a mandatory life in prison without parole, probation or suspension of sentence.
McCasland, who is now at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, argued in the appeal that his sentence was excessive for his crime and that errors throughout his trial should be revisited in a re-trial. However, a three-judge appellate court panel rejected all of McCasland's claims about his trial in the courtroom of 19th Judicial District Court Judge Don Johnson.
McCasland "has not shown by clear and convincing evidence that he is exceptional such that a mandatory life sentence would not be meaningfully tailored" in his case, wrote Judge Page McClendon for a unanimous 1st Circuit Court of Appeal panel. "We believe that this particular defendant, along with his actions, is the type of offender the statute meant to address."
While many other states have enacted statutes that can convict drug dealers or dispensers of drugs of murder after an overdose, Alexander said no other state has a mandatory life in prison without parole sentence. Louisiana's statute has been in effect for almost two decades.
"I think it's astounding that the 1st Circuit did not address in any meaningful way that Louisiana is the only state in the country that mandates death at Angola under these circumstances," Alexander said. He was disappointed the judgment did not evaluate that portion of the law or compare Louisiana's statute with other states', something he said should have been "essential" in their decision.
The panel further rejected that McCasland was denied a fair trial because part of the definition of criminal negligence was left out when read to the jury, that his counsel was not effective during certain parts of the trial and that the court erroneously allowed parts of his criminal record to "destroy his character." The judges determined that the original trial was handled appropriately and the claims made in the appeal are irrelevant.