The Louisiana Supreme Court issued a stay Thursday afternoon in Grover Cannon's capital trial, halting the proceedings in the middle of jury selection to consider a plea to start the trial over due to a lack of any young adults or new parish residents in the jury pool.
The order, granting a request for an emergency stay, came hours after Caddo District Judge Ramona Emanuel resumed jury selection in Cannon's trial in the killing of a Shreveport police officer, despite the recent revelation that no one under the age of 26 was included in the 566-person jury pool.
Cannon’s attorneys had asked Emanuel to throw out that pool of prospective East Baton Rouge Parish jurors and start over. Jury selection began last month.
Emanuel, however, said Thursday the exclusion of 18- to 25-year-olds from the jury pool was neither intentional nor deliberate. The judge also denied a defense request to halt jury selection while appeals of her ruling are pending.
Cannon's attorneys filed a motion for an emergency stay, which the Supreme Court granted. In that motion, they said it was "anticipated that a jury will be seated and sworn by the end of the day."
It was a second time that the high court has suspended Emanuel's push to keep jury selection moving amid the controversy.
Jury selection was paused for several days this week after the Supreme Court ordered Emanuel to conduct a hearing on the jury pool issue. She held that hearing Wednesday.
Administrators at the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge have blamed a computer snafu, dating to 2011, for keeping persons under the age of 26 off the Cannon jury pool as well as jury pools in East Baton Rouge Parish generally.
Cannon's lawyers claim the jury pool for his capital murder case falls unconstitutionally short of being a representative cross-section of the community. Emanuel rejected that claim.
Ann McCrory, the 19th Judicial District's judicial administrator, testified Wednesday that no one born after June 2, 1993, has ever had a chance at jury service in East Baton Rouge, or even received a summons, because their names didn't make it onto the "jury wheel" – a roster of more than 300,000 people culled from voter and driver's license records.
Groups of qualified jurors are randomly drawn for trials from the jury wheel.
It also was revealed during that hearing that no one who has moved into East Baton Rouge Parish since 2011 has been included in the parish's jury rolls.
McCrory blamed those problems on a "computer glitch."
Cannon faces a possible death sentence if he's convicted in the 2015 slaying of 29-year-old Shreveport officer and St. Amant native Thomas LaValley.
Plans call for choosing a dozen jurors and several alternates in East Baton Rouge due to the notoriety of the case in north Louisiana, but Cannon's trial will be held in Shreveport.