CROCKETT_JIMEELAH_1300141170_229273.jpg

Jimeelah Crockett

Two months after the nation's top court outlawed split-jury criminal verdicts in state court, a Baton Rouge woman found guilty of murder by a non-unanimous jury last fall has learned she's getting a new trial.

State District Judge Bonnie Jackson ordered a new trial for Jimeelah Crockett on Thursday, eight days after her attorneys filed a motion asking the judge to reverse Crockett's second-degree murder conviction and schedule another trial.

Crockett, 29, was convicted by an 11-1 vote three days before the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments last fall in a New Orleans case over the legality of split-jury criminal verdicts in state court.

In a ruling April 20 in the New Orleans case, the high court outlawed split-jury verdicts, prompting Crockett's attorneys to file their motion for a new trial.

"A non-unanimous jury reached a verdict against Ms. Crockett that is, by virtue of its non-unanimity, illegal under the ... United States Constitution," lawyers Jacob Longman and Kathryn Jakuback Burke wrote in the motion.

Burke said Monday they are thrilled for Crockett and "looking forward to getting back into court."

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Jackson's ruling was proper based on the Supreme Court decision.

"We will meet with the victim’s family soon to discuss setting a new trial date," he said.

Crockett faced a mandatory sentence of life in prison for the 2017 killing of her boyfriend, Joseph Bunch III, 38. Her sentencing had been put on hold pending the Supreme Court ruling.

An East Baton Rouge Parish jury rejected Crockett's claim that she fatally shot Bunch in self-defense in the parking lot of the Ardendale Oaks apartment complex on North Lobdell Boulevard, where they lived.

Prosecutors said her claim was contradicted by surveillance video that showed Bunch moving backward with his hands up and then turning to walk away as Crockett fired a single fatal shot on Aug. 20, 2017.

Bunch was shot in his back left shoulder. The bullet perforated his windpipe and left lung, according to trial testimony.

Moore has said the video demonstrated that Bunch was "obviously no threat" to Crockett.

In her videotaped statement, which was played for the jury, Crockett told Baton Rouge police detectives that Bunch had been physical with her inside their apartment that night and that she shot him outside after he came at her with a raised hand as if he meant to hit her.

The gun, a 9 mm pistol, was found at the scene.

Crockett had a busted lip and minor scratches on her body when police arrived at the scene.

Crockett and Bunch shared a child.

A constitutional amendment approved by Louisiana voters in late 2018 did away with non-unanimous jury verdicts but applies only to crimes that occurred on or after Jan. 1, 2019.

The Supreme Court's April ruling applies to all future trials, and to inmates who were convicted by divided juries and haven't exhausted their appeals.


Email Joe Gyan Jr. at jgyan@theadvocate.com.