Baton Rouge teen convicted of second-degree murder in a 2014 fatal shooting on La Margie Avenue _lowres

Brandon Boyd

A Baton Rouge man, who was 17 when he randomly fired into a crowd on La Margie Avenue in 2014 and killed another man, may be on the verge of getting a new trial, his attorney said Thursday.

Brandon Boyd, 24, was convicted of second-degree murder by a split-jury verdict in 2016 and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Boyd, who claims his penalty is unconstitutionally excessive, had an appeal pending on that issue at the Louisiana Supreme Court when the U.S. Supreme Court in April used the New Orleans murder case of Evangelisto Ramos to outlaw nonunanimous jury verdicts in criminal cases.

Boyd's lawyer, Michael Fiser, then filed a motion in May asking the state Supreme Court to send his case back to an appellate court in light of the Ramos decision.

Boyd's sentencing arguments were supposed to be heard by the state high court next Monday, but on Wednesday the justices in unanimous fashion sent his case back to the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal to determine whether he should be retried.

Fiser said Thursday he's optimistic that the appeals court "will do the right thing" and throw out Boyd’s conviction.

"It’s clear after Ramos, Boyd had a right to a unanimous concurrence of all 12 jurors for the crime of second-degree murder. Boyd was denied that right," Fiser wrote in an email.

"His conviction was yet another tainted product of the Jim Crow-era split jury law rejected in 2018 by Louisiana voters," Fiser wrote.

Boyd was found guilty by a 10-2 jury vote.

Fiser acknowledged that the issue of unanimity was not raised at the trial court level, because Louisiana law at the time did not require unanimous jury verdicts. Only 10 of 12 jurors had to concur for a valid verdict.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said there appears to be some confusion among courts around the state regarding the proper application of the Ramos decision in instances where a criminal defendant did not raise the issue of jury unanimity at trial.

"We will continue to review the issue in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to remand this case and seek to resolve any questions regarding the scope of the Ramos decision with respect to Boyd and others similarly situated in a manner that is consistent with the applicable law as well as the interests of justice and fairness in criminal proceedings," he said.

The state Supreme Court had agreed in December to review Boyd's life without parole sentence.

State District Judge Beau Higginbotham found Boyd, who fired a gun several times into a street brawl in which he was not involved, to be "the worst of the worst type of person" when he sentenced him.

When dealing with juvenile killers, the nation's highest court has said life without parole terms should be reserved for the worst cases and worst offenders.

For juvenile killers found not to be beyond rehabilitation, Louisiana law allows them a chance at a parole hearing after they've spent 25 years in jail.

When the 1st Circuit affirmed Boyd's sentence last year, Chief Judge Vanessa Whipple said the fact that he was a first-time offender "does little to mitigate the atrocity of the crime." Circuit Judge Mike McDonald called Boyd "a threat to society" who "earned this sentence."

A bystander, Emanuelle Myles, 24, of Baton Rouge, was killed in the shooting. Another man who was 19 at the time was shot in the arm.

Boyd and Myles were among those who had gathered in a parking lot to watch four people fight, police have said. At some point during the fight, Boyd — who knew two of the people involved in the fight — pulled out a gun and fired multiple shots.

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

The U.S. Supreme Court's April ruling in Ramos 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.