ACA.supremecourt.070419

CONVENT — A state district judge added 15 years to a Lutcher man's 30 year sentence for his conviction in a 2016 slaying in St. James Parish, prosecutors said Friday.

Burnell Gordon, 37, now faces 45 years in state prison after prosecutors successfully had him declared a habitual offender.

Judge Tess Stromberg of the 23rd Judicial District Court handed down the added time earlier this week, prosecutors for District Attorney Ricky Babin said in a statement.

Gordon had two prior narcotics-related convictions and, prosecutors said, did not contest during the habitual offender proceedings that he was a three-time felon after his latest convictions.

In late January 2019, a jury convicted Gordon, 2445 N. Central St., Lutcher, of manslaughter and possession of firearm in the slaying of a 19-year-old St. James Parish man who witnesses said identified him as his killer before he died.

Prosecutors said investigators determined Darrell Johnson was shot in an ambush near the front door of his aunt's home on Courseault Street in Lutcher on June 15, 2016. 

But, at trial, Gordon's defense attorneys maintained his innocence and argued prosecutors lacked forensic evidence linking him to the crime scene. They also claimed Johnson, the shooting victim, had robbed Gordon's home, holding his children at gunpoint shortly before the slaying, and questioned Johnson's identification of Gordon under poor lighting.

Jurors rejected a second-degree murder count for Gordon, but, in a 11-1 vote, found him guilty of the reduced charge of manslaughter, avoiding a mandatory life sentence for Gordon at the time.

Stromberg gave Gordon a combined 30 years for his two convictions April 29 but added the extra time Monday in Convent.

In November 2018, Louisiana voters supported changing the state Constitution so unanimous jury verdicts were required for all noncapital felony cases, but the ballot amendment's language limits the change to crimes committed on Jan. 1, 2019, or later.

A case is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court that would make the amendment retroactive at least to prior cases still awaiting trial and where a conviction has happened but the appeal rights have not been fully exhausted.

Email David J. Mitchell at dmitchell@theadvocate.com

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.