Jefferson Parish Court Judge Bars Evidence in Murder Trial
Jefferson Parish prosecutors say they have solid eviden
ce linking Byron Ross of Metairie to the slaying of a train engineer in New Orleans two years ago. But a Jefferson Parish jury won’t hear about the evidence if Ross’s case goes to trial.
A 24th Judicial District Court judge in Gretna Monday denied prosecutors their request to present ballistics evidence they say links Ross, 25, to the June 10, 2010, death of CSX Transportation engineer Frederick Gibbs, 52, and the wounding of a second engineer.
Authorities say the engineers were shot in the train’s engineer compartment while being robbed.
Ross allegedly used that same Ruger .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol to shoot Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Detective Solomon Burke on June 23, 2010.
Burke was among the officers who went to the LaBella Motel on Jefferson Highway, armed with a warrant to search the room Ross occupied and aware that he was wanted for the New Orleans crime. Ross allegedly used credit cards stolen from the train engineers in New Orleans, at a Jefferson Highway business.
Burke’s body armor saved him from severe injury or death, after Ross opened fire into his room’s door at officers on the other side.
Ross now awaits trial in Jefferson Parish on charges of attempted first-degree murder, for shooting Burke, and attempted second-degree murder and armed robbery, in connection with a crime that occurred days earlier in East Jefferson. His trial is set for October.
Prosecutors in New Orleans have not charged Ross with the train crimes.
Ross has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity, and his public defender Graham Bosworth hopes to convince a jury his client cannot be held criminally responsible for his actions because he’s insane. Ross has a history of mental illness that already has stalled progress in his criminal case.
Since May, prosecutors have wanted to present to a jury evidence linking Ross to the New Orleans crimes. Jefferson Parish prosecutors routinely employ, and judges regularly allow the use of evidence showing defendants’ “other bad acts,” or behaviors to show their criminal intent.
The request set up a string of arguments that culminated Monday, when Judge Hans Liljeberg barred prosecutors Scott Schlegel and Doug Freese from using the evidence.
Bosworth argued against it.
“The Orleans Parish case, if introduced at trial, would potentially cause the jury to automatically find Byron guilty,” Bosworth said. “At the same time, the Orleans Parish case does not help the state prove their case. Because the Orleans case, then, would hurt Byron but not help the state, the court refused to allow it to be introduced.”
The victory came at a cost, however, because in light of Ross’s insanity plea and its affect on the rules of evidence, Bosworth had to acknowledge that Ross shot Burke.
Although Bosworth has raised the insanity defense, Ross currently is ruled mentally competent to stand trial.
For More information contact Jefferson Parish Criminal Defense Attorney Harold E. Weiser