A cold-case detective’s sworn 2013 statement that Baton Rouge lawyer Joel Porter “has always been a suspect” in his wife’s unsolved 1985 stabbing death was truthful then and now, an attorney for the officer argued Thursday to a federal judge.
Porter claims in a federal court lawsuit, filed in 2014, that Baton Rouge Police Detective John Dauthier’s statement in a search warrant application defamed him.
Assistant Parish Attorney Michael Schillage told U.S. District Judge John deGravelles on Thursday that the probe into Denise Porter’s killing is open and ongoing.
But Steve Irving, one of Joel Porter’s attorneys, countered that the search warrant application Dauthier presented to state District Judge Mike Erwin to obtain Porter’s DNA was defective because it failed to state facts to back up the search.
The warrant, Irving argued, stated only that Joel Porter was Denise Porter’s husband, that they lived together in the apartment where she was killed and that Porter “has always been a suspect” in her death.
“If they (police) don’t have Mr. Porter’s DNA, how can they compare that DNA with that of someone who shouldn’t have been there?” deGravelles asked.
“Ask for it. There was no ask for it in this case,” Irving replied. “Ask? Yes. Force? No.”
Irving also argued that Dauthier’s allegation that Porter is a suspect “straight up tells a false story about Mr. Porter.”
Porter claims he worked all night at the Baton Rouge post office before he came home to discover his wife dead on March 14, 1985.
“The statement that he ‘has always been a suspect’ is just not true,” Irving told deGravelles.
Irving argued police found no marks on Joel Porter’s body and there were no signs that he had been involved in a struggle.
“It is an established fact that Mr. Porter had nothing to do with the killing of his wife,” Irving said.
The judge asked Schillage to comment on the accuracy of that statement by Irving.
“It’s not true,” Schillage answered.
Schillage noted that Porter and his attorneys are in possession of only a partial cold-case file.
“They don’t have all the facts,” he said.
Porter contends the discovery of an unknown person’s DNA on the ankle portion of Denise Porter’s sweatpants proves he did not kill his wife.
The trial of Porter’s suit against Dauthier is scheduled to begin Sept. 14. DeGravelles said he would issue a ruling on Dauthier’s statement in the search warrant application before then. Porter also claims in the suit that Dauthier defamed him by providing “false and scandalous” statements to media outlets, including The Advocate.
State District Judge Don Johnson on Monday gave the Baton Rouge Police Department until Sept. 10 to turn over to Porter the agency’s investigative files regarding the slaying, unless an appeals court says otherwise. The department is going to appeal the judge’s decision.
Porter had cited to Johnson a provision of the state’s public records law that says 10 years after an unnatural death, the immediate family of a victim may access police documents and evidence in a case. Police agencies can cite the fact that an investigation is ongoing as a reason to shield the records from public view.
Schillage argued Thursday that there is an “ongoing criminal investigative file” in the Denise Porter case.
Irving alleged to deGravelles that Denise Porter was having affairs with numerous men at the time of her death, including a security guard at the apartment complex where she and Joel Porter lived.
Irving said Porter has a right to be considered a victim.