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Saturday, August 30, 2014
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Murder case ends in second mistrial

Last Modified: Monday, January 27, 2014 7:04 PM

By Johnathan Manning / American Press

A second-degree murder trial from 2004 has ended in a mistrial for a second time within seven months. This time, two weather delays were the culprits, keeping the jury from hearing any testimony.

Robert Wilkins, 37, is accused of killing 32-year-old Anthony "Tony" Fontenot in September 2004 near the Choupique boat launch.

A new trial date of May 19 was set.

The trial got off to a rocky start Jan. 21 when a prosecution witness could not be found. Prosecutors asked for a mistrial, but the request became moot later that day when the witness was found.

A jury was picked Wednesday and Thursday, but opening statements were delayed until Monday because the court was closed Friday because of a winter storm. Another looming winter storm forced the closure of the courthouse today and Wednesday. Both sides asked for the mistrial, which Judge Kent Savoie granted.

"We're very disappointed we weren't able to have the trial this week and we look forward to bringing the matter to trial in May," defense attorney Richard Bourke said.

"It's a very unusual circumstance," prosecutor Rick Bryant said. "I've picked two juries in this case and I don't look forward to picking a third. I'm looking forward to getting the family some peace, one way or the other. It's just one of those things that happens. It is strange that it's taken 10 years to find justice in this case, but that's where we stand."

Funding issues initially delayed the case before it was brought to trial in 2009, Bryant said. Although Wilkins was found guilty, an appeals court overturned the verdict because a juror was excused because of race.

An attempt to try Wilkins in July ended in a mistrial during jury selection because some jurors had already been questioned when an issue about the state’s stand-your-ground law arose.

"There's some cases that have trouble working their way through the system and this one has had more trouble than most," Bourke said.


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