Teddy Chester, the former death row inmate twice convicted for the 1995 killing a Metairie cab driver, was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday, Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick's office said.
Chester was convicted in 1997 for the first-degree murder of John Adams, who was found shot to death in his cab in Metairie. Chester was sentenced to death, but a federal judge ruled in 2016 that he did not receive proper legal representation in that trial and granted him a new one.
A Jefferson Parish grand jury indicted him again earlier this year, this time for second-degree murder, and the jury in his second trial unanimously decided last month that Chester was guilty.
On Wednesday, Judge Ellen Shirer Kovach handed down the mandatory life sentence in 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna, according to Connick's office.
“It took 20 seconds to take his life,” Bonnie James, fiancée of Adams’ brother, said in impact testimony before the sentencing. “Our family was changed forever.”
Adams, 34, was found dead in his cab with a single gunshot wound to the back of his head on Dec. 27, 1995.
Police arrested Elbert Ratcliff after his thumbprint was found on some of Adams personal effects that were scattered on the floor of the cab, and Ratcliff led police to Chester. Both men said they had gotten in the cab at about 4 a.m. on Calhoun Street, but each said the other pulled the trigger.
Chester's attorneys argued he had gotten in the passenger side of the car to try to sell Adams fake drugs, only to watch as Ratcliff shoot Adams after trying to sell him a T-shirt.
Prosecutors successfully argued that Ratcliff and Chester were part of a planned armed robbery that resulted in Adams' murder, and under Louisiana law, Chester's involvement means he can be found guilty of Adams' murder even if he did not pull the trigger. Also, Chester's girlfriend testified that he had told her that he had held a gun to the back of Adams' head when it went off.
Ratcliff was tried separately from Chester was convicted of second-degree in 1997 and was sentenced to life in prison.
Chester will not be eligible for parole, probation or suspended sentence. Kovach also denied defense motions for a new trial.