LaurenceMcKee.jpg

Laurence McKee is accused of a fatal shooting in New Orleans. (OPSO)

Family members ripped into an ex-Marine convicted of murder after a New Orleans judge denied his request for a new trial over allegations of prosecutorial misconduct on Monday.

Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier handed a mandatory sentence of life without the chance of parole to Laurence McKee, 29, who was convicted of second-degree murder in January.

Authorities said McKee, who claimed self-defense, shot his friend Justin Scott once in the back in McKee’s 7th Ward apartment after a night of drinking in August 2016.

McKee maintained that he fired as Scott advanced on him. He explained the fact that the bullet struck Scott in the back by saying that it ricocheted off the apartment’s front door.

In victim-impact testimony, Theresa Scott said her 25-year-old son’s death came at the hands of a “coward.”

“You’re pure evil. Pure evil,” she said while staring at McKee. “If you can do this to someone who you call a friend and cared about, then you should never be allowed to ever walk the streets again.”

Yet McKee’s attorney argued the judge should toss out the jury’s verdict on the grounds that prosecutors had failed to disclose crucial evidence before the trial. Lawyer Paul Barker said the District Attorney’s Office violated its responsibility to reveal evidence that could have helped McKee.

In an unusual scene, Barker called McKee’s trial lawyer, Jerry Settle, to the stand to ask him when prosecutors turned over body-worn camera footage from beat cops who responded to McKee’s 911 call saying he had shot his friend.

Barker took over the case from Settle after the trial.

The patrol cops were recorded speculating that the bullet had bounced off the door to McKee’s apartment.

Speaking from the stand, Settle said he received the video midway through the trial from Assistant District Attorney Jason Napoli. Settle said that left him little time to comb through hours of video.

Yet Napoli suggested Settle’s problems came from poor trial preparation, not prosecutorial misconduct.

He said he sent the body-camera videos to Settle on the day of jury selection, the same day the defense attorney asked for them. He added that the videos only confirmed that the bullet hit the door, not whether it hit the door before it killed Scott.

Prosecutors theorized that the bullet passed through Scott’s body before it struck the door.

Napoli said early disclosure of the videos would have been irrelevant because Settle acknowledged that he lost all the evidence in the case a month before the trial.

In denying Barker’s motion for a new trial, Flemings-Davillier said the notion that the bullet ricocheted had already been aired before the jury. She said McKee's defense team was also given the opportunity to play the body-camera footage for the jury.

“The defense’s theory of this particular case was presented from day one of this trial,” she said. “This court did not find that the body cam released any so-called ‘new evidence’ that was not previously known to defense counsel when he initially received this case.”

Barker said he would appeal the ruling.

Meanwhile, Scott’s relatives urged McKee to accept responsibility for the fatal shooting. They said that on the night of the shooting, Scott was trying to help an old friend who had fallen into depression.

Scott, who had just returned from a 21-day shift working offshore, hoped to get married and have a family of his own one day, relatives said.

“My son wasn’t out selling drugs, breaking into houses or cars, or killing anyone. He was working hard,” said Robert Scott Jr. “His only mistake was that he refused to give up on a friend.”


Follow Matt Sledge on Twitter, @mgsledge.

msledge@theadvocate.com | (504) 636-7432