The world may soon be watching a Beauregard Parish case, as it may potentially reflect the future of a controversial 2016 ruling made by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding capital offenders who commit their crimes while underage.
The Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights has appealed to the Third Circuit Court in the case of Aaron George Hauser, 53, who was 17 when he killed his stepmother, Joan Hauser, and her young adult son, John Leidig, in 1983.
Hauser pleaded guilty in April 1984 and was convicted on two counts of first-degree murder, receiving a sentence of life in prison without benefit of parole.
The advocacy group based its appeal off of the high court’s ruling that any juvenile convicted of murder must not be subjected to a mandatory sentence of life without parole, and instead be afforded a new hearing and the potential for release.
In December 2018, Hauser appeared before Judge C. Kerry Anderson for his sentencing review, but upon considering Hauser’s case Anderson ruled the life sentence would remain in place.
This summer, the LCCR picked up Hauser’s case and recently filed its initial briefings to allow Hauser’s case be reconsidered.
According to court documents filed with the 36th Judicial District Court, Hauser’s case was considered especially heinous by the state because of the premeditation put forth on his part during the weeks before killing his father’s family.
In 1979, Hauser’s biological parents divorced, and he and his sister moved with their mother to Kerrville, Texas. Hauser’s father, George Hauser, later remarried Joan Hauser and became stepfather to her four children. The youngest, Leidig, was the only minor child of the four that lived with his mother and George Hauser until the time of his death at the age of 17.
According to court filings, Hauser enlisted the help of 26-year-old William Kinkade. In the days before the killings, the two purchased multiple guns, including a high-powered rifle. When Hauser’s mother made a trip out of town, they secretly made the eight-hour trip back to Beauregard Parish, arriving just before daylight on July 4.
After observing George Hauser leaving the home on a three-wheeler to tend to his farm, Aaron Hauser entered the property while Kinkade served as lookout. Hauser located Joan Hauser in her bedroom and fired shots into her face and chest with the high-powered rifle. He then located Leidig in his bedroom asleep and shot him in the face and arm with the same weapon.
Upon hearing the shots, Kinkade fled the property until he reached a neighbor’s home and made an emergency call to authorities. He later told investigators he had thought the two were going to commit property crimes. Hauser fled to his Kerrville home alone, but was arrested that same day.
In its briefs, the LCCR said the state recited an “unproven and unsubstantiated” narrative of the crime in its effort to convince the court that Hauser should remain in prison, and that it ignored the mental and emotional turmoil that Hauser was experiencing at that time in his life after allegedly suffering from a “brutal gang rape” in the weeks prior to the murders.
The LCCR also presented Hauser’s prison record to the court, calling it “practically unblemished” over the past 35 years.
“The state makes no credible argument that Aaron Hauser is permanently incorrigible,” the LCCR’s brief reads.
In its own filings, the state alleged Hauser never showed remorse for the killings. Statements obtained from inmates and entered as evidence revealed Hauser spoke in great detail about the killings, at one point saying that “it had been easy” to kill the victims. Multiple statements included comments that Hauser had talked of staying in the home and drinking Kool-Aid for a time after the killings, and that he laughed when talking of the murders.
“The defendant’s statements to other inmates following the crimes show that he had no concern whatsoever for the victims he murdered or their loved ones,” Assistant District Attorney Richard Morton stated in his arguments.
The state further argues that the 2016 Supreme Court ruling does not require a court to prove the offender is “permanently incorrigible” or reflect “irreparable corruption.”
Hauser’s case is the first such re-sentencing case to reach an appellate court in Louisiana since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling, and it could potentially be the very first of its kind to be heard in an appeal to the Supreme Court.
The case is set to be decided by a three-member panel of the Third Circuit.