A prosecutor is complaining that a local lawyer who now represents a Baton Rouge woman accused in the 2015 poisoning death of her boyfriend used a typically mundane court filing to unnecessarily attack the victim's character.
The complaint concerns a motion Joel Porter filed to enroll as Meshell Hale's attorney in her first-degree murder case. In it, Porter referred to the victim, Damian Skipper, as a "child-rapist and twice convicted registered sex-offender."
A 51-year-old Baton Rouge woman pleaded not guilty Monday to first-degree murder in the 2015 poisoning death of her live-in boyfriend, and her…
Skipper, according to exhibits attached to the motion, was arrested in 1994 on carnal knowledge of a juvenile and pleaded guilty in 1996 to contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile. He also pleaded guilty in 2003 to carnal knowledge of a juvenile.
East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Dana Cummings argued in court papers filed late Monday that there was "no legitimate reason to attack Damian Skipper's character" in Porter's motion to enroll as Hale's counsel of record.
"Character evidence of the victim is very rarely admissible even at trial, much less in a pretrial filing — especially one as mundane as a mere motion to enroll as counsel of record," she stated.
Steve Irving, a lawyer representing Porter, said Tuesday that Skipper's past is a relevant consideration.
"The fact that Damian Skipper was someone that many people might want dead because of past criminal conduct is a legitimate defense issue," he said.
District Attorney Hillar Moore III said there's no question that defendants have the right to all defenses allowed by law, "however a motion to enroll is not the proper method to do such."
Cummings also takes issue with Porter calling Skipper a child-rapist. She says he was "never arrested nor convicted of rape."
Hale, 51, formerly of Slaughter, is accused of fatally poisoning Skipper — her 41-year-old live-in boyfriend — with barium to collect on his $10,000 life insurance policy. He died in June 2015. She pleaded not guilty Monday.
A woman who collected $10,000 in life insurance proceeds after the 2015 death of a Baton Rouge man she claimed to be married to was indicted W…
Hale also is being investigated in the suspicious March 2016 death of her husband, Arthur Noflin Jr., 42, of Baton Rouge. His body was burned beyond recognition and found in the rear seat of his charred pickup in New Orleans.
Skipper was hospitalized several times with abdominal pain before he died, and Noflin became sick with the same symptoms six months after Skipper's death, Hale's arrest warrant says.
Hale's bid to collect $750,000 in life insurance proceeds as Noflin's sole beneficiary is on hold. A state judge in Baton Rouge last year said a civil case involving the money won't move forward until the criminal proceedings against Hale have concluded.