Cardero Davis

Cardero Davis

A tearful mother mustered seven words on Tuesday when a New Orleans prosecutor asked her what kind of sentence her son’s killer should receive.

“Justice for my child. Justice for Donald,” Robin Jackson said.

Soon afterward, Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Paul Bonin handed Cardero Davis a 20-year prison term for the killing last year of his friend and neighbor, Donald Dillard Jr.

The sentence came after a roller-coaster day in court as Davis shifted from preparing for a trial to reaching an agreement with prosecutors for a term of anywhere from 20 to 40 years in prison, at the judge’s discretion.

District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office amended a second-degree murder charge to manslaughter as part of the agreement, which came with the approval of Dillard’s family.

Police said Davis shot Dillard twice inside a car as they drove in the 1100 block of North Dorgenois Street about 3 a.m. on Feb. 25, 2018.

Davis drove Dillard to University Medical Center, where his friend was pronounced dead. Then he proceeded to the Police Department’s 1st District Station, where he handed over the gun used in the killing.

Davis claimed that Dillard was “luring him somewhere” and “reaching for something” before Davis shot him, according to an arrest warrant.

Though several years apart in age, the two men grew up on the same block, a short distance from the shooting site. Bonin said it was still a mystery why one friend turned on the other, but he suspected drugs were involved.

Dillard had a high level of methamphetamine in his blood at the time of his death, according to an autopsy report.

That toxicology report briefly became the subject of a politically charged legal dispute on Tuesday morning, when Davis’ defense attorney accused prosecutors of purposefully withholding it until the week of the trial. Assistant District Attorney Michael Trummel denied the allegation from lawyer Jason Williams, a City Council member who is a frequent foe of Cannizzaro’s and is expected to run for district attorney next year.

Bonin said he was skeptical of Williams' claim, and the plea agreement put the dispute to rest.

Bonin said the fact that Davis drove his friend to the hospital and voluntarily went to police weighed heavily in his decision to give him the minimum, 20-year sentence, as did Davis' courtroom apology.

Davis, 31, wore a neat blue shirt and answered the judge’s questions about his guilty plea in a whisper before he turned to address Dillard’s mother.

Donald Dillard Jr.

Donald Dillard Jr. was shot to death in New Orleans' 6th Ward on Feb. 25, 2018. (Contributed photo)

“I just want to say I’m sorry, Miss Robin, for the way things turned out. … I never meant for any of this to happen,” he said.

Dillard, 39, was working double shifts as a deliveryman and a crossing guard at Ochsner Medical Center at the time of his death, according to his father. Donald Dillard Sr. said they shared breakfast and lunch every day.

Jackson, Dillard’s mother, said she suffers through holidays, birthdays and family functions missing her oldest son.

“I pray for you,” she said, looking at Davis. “But this hurts me so much. The pain don’t go away.”


Follow Matt Sledge on Twitter, @mgsledge.