GONZALES — A Prairieville man faces a mandatory life sentence after an Ascension Parish jury convicted him of an April 2017 slaying with a nonunanimous verdict that would have been barred had the crime been committed after Jan. 1.
Last fall, Louisiana voters ended nonunanimous jury verdicts for felonies happening on Jan. 1 or later. The ballot measure did not make the change retroactive for crimes committed before Jan. 1.
Prosecutors in Ascension said Donovan Darville, 29, showed up at the home of Clarence Harvey, his childhood friend, and fired several shots in Harvey's direction, killing him on April 18, 2017.
Jurors voted, 11-1, on Wednesday night to convict Darville, 39248 Germany Road, of second-degree murder and were unanimous in convicting him of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Before trial, Darville's attorneys had informed the court they planned to raise as a defense that he was under the influence of illegal drugs at the time of the shooting and was too intoxicated to have an intent to kill Harvey.
But prosecutors were able to show at trial that Harvey was shot twice in the head and also put on testimony that Darville aired concerns afterward about the number of witnesses to the shooting.
Darville ended up choosing not to testify in his own defense nor to bring a subpoenaed psychological expert to the stand, court minutes show.
In 2018, a sanity commission found him fit to stand trial.
In the statement Friday, Assistant District Attorney Joni Buquoi and Leila Braswell said that Darville and Harvey had previously had an argument before the shooting at the mobile home in the Country Ridge subdivision north of Gonzales.
Arriving Ascension Parish sheriff's deputies found Harvey, 27, also of Prairieville, suffering from several gunshot wounds. He was later pronounced dead.
Darville fled the scene of the shooting but detectives soon learned his identity and tracked him down, prosecutors said.
The slaying had an unusual twist less than a week afterward. Clarence Harvey's brother was shot in a Gonzales city park during a benefit for Clarence's funeral expenses. Police said at the time that two shootings weren't connected.
In mid-June, the man accused in that shooting, Melvin Sanders, 32, of Donaldsonville, pleaded guilty to attempting to possess a firearm as a felon and received five years in state prison. As part of the agreement, prosecutors dropped the attempted murder charge against Sanders and agreed not to bill him as a multiple offender.
That shooting was not raised at Darville's trial.
Judge Jason Verdigets of the 23rd Judicial District deferred Darville's sentencing until Nov. 12.
Though the change to the verdict law isn't retroactive, an appeal of a split verdict in New Orleans is already before the U.S. Supreme Court. The appeal raises the potential the high court could undo split-jury verdicts from older cases that predate the new law and haven't fully run the course of their appeals, experts have said.