Maxie murder verdict under scrutiny

Melvin Maxie

By Daniel Jones, editor

Citing several inconsistencies in last year’s trial of Melvin Maxie, which resulted in his being convicted of second-degree murder, defense attorneys are expected to be back in court soon asking the court to consider whether to order a new trial, modify the verdict to the conviction of a lesser offense, or grant a post verdict judgment of acquittal.

The documents were filed by the defense, attorney Casey Secor and the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center in early January, but District Attorney Don Burkett asked for and received a continuance until February 7.

The defense has issued a subpoena to every juror from the case and both alternates.  Their statements have been taken and their request will be presented to the court  on Wednesday of next week.

The 442-page filing holds a number of contentious allegations, especially toward the jurors and District Attorney Don Burkett.

“These filings are a common occurrence and were expected,” Burkett said.  “I will answer the accusations in court.”

For instance, one juror, identified as Jeffrey Beasley, is alleged to have lived in The Woodlands, Texas, a suburb of Houston, since 2008 after buying a house there.  He does own a house in Zwolle, but the defense contends his primary residence is not in that location.  Beasley is employed in Texas, where he and his wife are also involved in running a non-profit.

The document also argues that another juror, Hosea Parrie, violated the rule of sequestration by talking about the trial to his wife, who sat in the courtroom gallery during the trial. 

In another instance, one juror made a comment that he was annoyed the defense asked for a mistrial, despite their never asking for such while the jurors were present. He openly admitted to a juror he was angry at the defense.

The filing also contends a juror did not answer “in voir dire” or truthfully, as he related the story of a cousin who died in a drive-by shooting. 

The defense also alleges that District Attorney Burkett intentionally dismissed jurors who were African American.

 “After reducing African-American representation on the jury to a single person, the State labeled Mr. Maxie, an African-American defendant a “thug” and obtained a conviction by majority verdict with the single African-American juror providing the dissenting vote and the white majority voting without substantively deliberating with that juror,” the document states.

In another instance, the defense argues, Burkett allegedly called one potential juror’s intelligence into question while speaking with Assistant District Attorney Anna Garcie, who also represented the State during Maxie’s trial.

Overall, the state struck three of the six African American jurors presented for strike or acceptance, or 50 percent.  By contrast, the state struck only 1 of the 23 white jurors presented for strike or acceptance, or 4.35 percent. 

The defense feels that the testimony/evidence presented at the trial through Maxie, Phillip Jones, and Marcello “Monk” Hicks differed in no material aspects, and that they established the Jones vehicle did not follow the victim, Tyruss Thomas, after leaving a graduation party at Gasaway’s, and that Thomas slowed down in front of the Jones vehicle, and that when Jones attempted to pass, an unprovoked gunshot was fired by Thomas.

Lastly, the defense states that their testimonies established the entire incident happened in a very short amount of time, and that Maxie’s gunshots were fired only in response to Thomas firing the initial, unprovoked gunshot into the Jones vehicle.

 “The verdict falls short of serving the best interests of justice,” the document reads.  “A new trial should be ordered.”

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