A hearing held Wednesday before Judge David Ritchie in state district court centered on questions regarding evidence in a murder trial and whether the state gave the defense everything it was entitled to receive.
Paul Barker, a New Orleans attorney who represents two women who were convicted here in 2012 on second-degree murder, requested the evidentiary hearing based on what he said were 23 items of evidence he claimed the state did not disclose at trial. Prosecutors have said that the defense was given all of the items.
Robyn Little Davis and Carol Noland "Sissy" Saltzman were found guilty at trial of the murder of Brian Davis, whose body was found in June, 2009 at the end of Wagon Wheel Road in south Lake Charles, after he had been missing for four days.
The women are seeking a new trial based on the fact that they say their defense attorneys were not given all evidence by the state as required by law. Davis and Saltzman were brought to court for the hearing from the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women.
Davis was shot four times and prosecutors said the scene was staged to look like the victim was robbed while changing a tire.
Rick Bryant prosecuted the case for the Calcasieu Parish District Attorney's Office and he said at the time that the two women, working together, lured the victim to the scene to kill him for reasons including money, anger and opportunity.
"He had an affair, she (Davis) caught him in the affair and confronted him about it," Bryant said. "She had no money at all and yet she was out gambling and playing video poker. Also, the insurance proceeds. He had over $700,000 in insurance. Saltzman was her friend. She and Robyn Davis were joined at the hip."
In court Wednesday, prosecutor Ross Murray and Barker debated back and forth over technicalities surrounding evidence and whether the state had given the defense everything that it was required to at trial regarding evidence.
Glen Vamvoras, who was defense attorney for Robyn Little Davis during the trial, testified Wednesday about what he could remember about the discovery he received on the case from the prosecution.
As Barker went through multiple items, Vamvoras said he couldn't recall on most of the evidence whether he had actually received the items. "I had a paralegal at the time, Erin Miller, who would have received various items or documents on discovery. But on a lot of these, I just don't recall. It was 10 years ago when we actually began working on the case."
Asked by Barker if he recalled receiving several videos of witnesses at trial who had been interviewed by investigators, including Fannie Dietz, Shane Dietz, Bailey Davis, and Michelle Vicknair, and he said he had never seen those items.
Murray questioned Vamvoras and the defense attorney reiterated that his former paralegal would have a better recollection of what items of evidence he had received or not received. "I just don't know the answer to everything regarding whether we got certain discovery."
As Murray referenced a particular police report as an item of evidence, Barker objected, saying he had never seen it before and didn't want it discussed in court since he hadn't seen it.
Murray said, "Well, it's public record and it's on the Clerk of Court's website."
"After threatening lawsuits at the Clerk's office, I finally got to hear about some of this but the report is 350 pages and this report here is 175 pages; do you want to give me the full report?"
Murray replied that the full report was available as a public record.
Former prosecutor Carla Sigler who is now in private practice, was called as a witness by Barker.
He asked her about public records requests and also if she had done work on the Davis and Saltzman trial and she said she did some work on it but that she was not a prosecutor on the case.
Sigler told him she did remember getting some requests from his office for all records pertaining to the trial and she said she recalled it because she was still at the District Attorney's Office at that time.
Asked if she remembered him filing some paperwork or a "lawsuit" saying he did not believe that he had been given all of the records, and she said that she did.
"My goal was to provide you with all records," Sigler said. "And I did find some that had been housed in another area. Those were supplemental records and were provided to you free of charge."
Barker acknowledged that she did do that but he also pointed out that the additional pages numbered 4,000 more than the original records he had been given and he said that was a huge discrepancy.
Davis and Saltzman are serving life sentences.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2014 declined to hear their appeals.
There will likely be future hearings in state district court on these matters before any decisions or rulings are made.