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Donald Germany II

The unintentional exclusion of young adults from the pool from which East Baton Rouge Parish grand jurors and trial jurors were chosen won't prevent a Baton Rouge man from standing trial in the 2016 strangling of his wife.

The Louisiana Supreme Court has cleared the way for Donald Germany II, 46, to go on trial in the killing of Nichole Jones, 41, on June 6, 2016.

A unanimous high court refused Wednesday to quash Germany's second-degree murder indictment, rejecting his argument that the grand jury that charged him in September 2016 didn't represent a fair cross section of the community because young people were excluded from the jury pool.

Justice Jeff Hughes wrote that the state Constitution and Louisiana Supreme Court rules "do not provide that age is a distinctive group required to comprise a fair cross-section of the community for purposes of grand jury selection."

"The courts have generally failed to recognize young adults, or any age group, as such a `distinctive group'," he stated.

Hughes noted that Germany is in his mid-40s "and thus does not belong to the group that may have been excluded."

Germany's attorney, East Baton Rouge Parish assistant public defender Margaret Lagattuta, said Friday she respectfully disagrees with the Supreme Court's ruling.

"Mr. Germany's grand jury was not chosen from a fair cross section of the community," she said.

District Attorney Hillar Moore III called the high court's Germany's motion to quash his indictment "correct and legally sound." 

"We can now focus our attention on proceeding to trial and obtaining justice for the victim in this case," he said.

State District Judge Beau Higginbotham's had ruled against Germany, but a state appeals court had vacated the judge's ruling; the Supreme Court reinstated it.

Germany has a Nov. 30 trial date.

Last year, in a Caddo Parish murder case that had been moved to Baton Rouge solely for the purpose of selecting a trial jury, the state Supreme Court concluded that East Baton Rouge's 2019 jury pool was not properly constituted because it excluded — among others — 18- to 25-year-olds.

The high court ordered jury selection in the case of Grover Cannon to start over with a new, properly constituted jury pool. He was ultimately convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Administrators at the 19th Judicial District Court have said the problem was caused by what they described as a computer glitch. They said the problem, which had gone on since 2011 and was discovered earlier last year, was fixed.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday distinguished Germany's case from the Cannon case, a first-degree murder case in which the state was seeking the death penalty.

The high court said its Cannon ruling "was necessitated by unique circumstances and was issued out of an abundance of caution."

"The circumstances here are quite different from those presented in Cannon," the court wrote. "In addition, because the technical problem in East Baton Rouge Parish has since been addressed, the present defendant will be tried by a jury chosen from a venire that was assembled free from error, and that will not exclude persons born after June 2, 1993."

Higginbotham had ruled last fall that no evidence was presented that the jury pool from which Germany's grand jury was chosen in 2016 excluded anyone, including young people. The judge said there were no backup records to prove any exclusion that year.

The judge, however, went even further, saying that assuming there was evidence of exclusion of any age, racial or gender group, there was no evidence of any intentional act on the part of anyone involved in the jury pool process.

Higginbotham's ruling was the first to deal with a challenge to the selection of grand jurors. That challenge was the first one filed in East Baton Rouge since the state Supreme Court's April 2019 ruling in the Cannon case.

Germany faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison if found guilty as charged.

Germany told family members and authorities that he strangled his wife in their Castle Hill Drive home, police say. He told sheriff's deputies he and Jones had argued the day before, and the argument continued the next day when he strangled her in bed.

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