Prosecutor: Ridiculous Reeves case isn’t finished after so many years

Although the state Supreme Court denied a recent appeal for a man found guilty and sentenced to death in the murder of 4-year-old Mary Jean Thigpen in 2001, he has not exhausted his appeals.

Jason Manuel Reeves, 43, is on death row for the murder of Thigpen and has for years appealed his conviction and death sentence.

Prosecutor Cynthia Killingsworth on Friday told the American Press that the defense team for Reeves “has 90 days to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court which I’m pretty certain they will do. After that, when they lose, and notice I didn’t say if, but when, federal post-conviction relief then begins.”

Killingsworth said she previously filed one death warrant for Reeves and “I want to file the next one but we have to wait for right now.”

“I really thought we would be done with this case by now,” Killingsworth said. “It’s so terrible for the (Thigpen) family. It’s ridiculous that it’s been this many years and it isn’t finished yet.”

She said the case has taken a “huge toll and is very time-consuming” for staff of the Calcasieu Parish District Attorney’s Office.

“I’m always worried about it (the case) and that doesn’t go away,” Killingsworth said. “Our appellate section works tirelessly, too. Most people have no idea how hard we work and all the things that have to be done in a case like this.”

Reeves was convicted in 2004 of abducting Thigpen from Moss Bluff on Nov. 1, 2001, and then raping her before stabbing her 16 times and slicing her neck.

His first trial began Oct. 27, 2003, but was declared a mistrial after the jury was unable to render a unanimous verdict on the first-degree murder charge.

Reeves’ second murder trial ended with jurors finding him guilty on Nov. 4, 2004. He was sentenced to death by lethal injection on Dec. 10, 2004.

Judge Mike Canaday signed a death warrant in 2012, but the defense appealed, saying Reeves suffered from an intellectual disability. Canaday ruled in May 2015 against that assertion.

In April 2016, the state’s Supreme Court upheld that ruling and Reeves’ death sentence.

Last year, Canaday heard motions in state district court that centered on Reeves’ statements that he had received ineffective counsel.

Then-prosecutor Carla Sigler presented evidence that she said disputed Reeves’ assertions while defense attorney Kerry Cuccia of the Capital Defense Project argued on Reeves’ behalf.

Sigler has since left the D.A.’s Office to go into private practice with Rick Bryant, a former career prosecutor for the D.A.’s Office who was the lead prosecutor for both of Reeves’ trials.

In denying the most recent appeal by the defendant, the state Supreme Court said, in part, “Once again, Reeves improperly attempts to re-litigate an issue upon which he has already sought review.” Reeves had previously raised the issue of what he called ineffective counsel. He has continued to push for a new trial and to appeal his conviction and death sentence.

Killingsworth said the defense team for Reeves “will not wear us out and we will persevere. No matter how long it takes, we will not give up.”””

Jason Reeves was convicted in 2014 of raping and killing 4-year-old Mary Jean Thigpen.

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