Supreme Court recuses judge from Daigle trial

Louisiana Supreme Courthttps://commons.wikimedia.org/

The state Supreme Court, in a decision handed down Monday, removed Judge Guy Bradberry from overseeing the upcoming trial of Kevin Daigle. 

Daigle is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting of Steven Vincent, a Louisiana state trooper, in 2015. The trial had been scheduled to begin this week.

In granting a recusal motion by Daigle’s defense team, the decision also inevitably set back the trial because the ruling means a new judge will be appointed and court dates will have to be set for additional defense motions that are pending. 

It’s expected that a new judge will be appointed to the Daigle case this week, possibly as early as today. 

On Friday, the state Supreme Court issued a stay in the trial, which put everything on hold at that time until further notice just as jury selection was set to begin this week in Bossier Parish. 

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal earlier ruled that Bradberry would not be recused and would continue to oversee the trial when it did begin but Monday’s decision trumped the 3rd Circuit’s ruling. 

In its decision, the state Supreme Court cited another case, Rippo v. Baker, and said the probability of actual bias on the part of the judge or decision-maker is too high to be “constitutionally tolerable.” 

Its decision regarding Bradberry said, in part, “Recusal may be required as a constitutional safeguard against the risk of bias and, because the defendant here faces the possibility of a death sentence, every reasonable effort must be made to ensure constitutional safeguards are met.” 

Continuing, the decision said, “The record here demonstrates that the trial judge had a longtime working relationship with Mrs. Vincent, the victim’s widow and a court employee; has a social media relationship with Mrs. Vincent that he initially denied in a formal opinion, but later admitted under oath; and has taken steps barred by the Code of Criminal Procedure which, if not corrected by the appellate court, would have thwarted another judge from considering his recusal. Mrs. Vincent is not only the victim’s widow, she is designated as a penalty phase witness in this capital case.” 

The state Supreme Court added that there has “been no allegation or showing that the trial judge (Bradberry) harbors any actual bias or that he is not a diligent district court judge.” 

Daigle’s defense team also filed a motion last week asking for a change of venue from Bossier City because of “Operation D-57,” a drug roundup of 180 people by law enforcement earlier this month in the areas of Central and Northwest Louisiana. The name of the roundup was in honor of Vincent, with “Operation D-57” referencing his unit number with Louisiana State Police. 

A news release sent out about the roundup by Louisiana State Police said, in part, “Trooper Vincent’s son requested we would ‘find a lot of drugs’ if we used his father’s LSP unit number as the operation title, and that’s exactly what resulted.” 

Daigle’s defense attorneys have several other motions pending, including the change of venue motion, which had also been scheduled to be heard just before jury selection began but none of those motions have been heard.

It is still planned for jury selection to take place at a future date in Benton in Bossier Parish. Once a jury is selected, jurors will be brought here for trial. 

The trial is expected to be held in Courtroom A in the old Calcasieu Courthouse to provide more seating. 

If found guilty, Daigle would face the death penalty. 

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