ST. MARTINVILLE – A local man serving life for murder will stay right where he is until the appeals court affirms Judge Paul DeMahy’s order overturning the man’s conviction.
The district attorney appealed DeMahy’s ruling that Jeff Andrew Haggins’ trial was spoiled by jury misconduct.
DeMahy issued a stay of proceedings in the case until the Third Circuit Court of Appeal rules in the case.
If DeMahy’s order is affirmed, however, Haggins, convicted in 1996 of the stabbing death of 38-year-old Karl Chastant, will be eligible for release on $500,000 bond pending a new trial.
According to an affidavit from one of the jurors, presented in court in St. Martinville, last week, the trial jury was deadlocked until two of the jurors – unidentified in the affidavit – abruptly changed their vote when ordered back into deliberation by the trial judge.
“I heard two other jurors who had voted not-guilty say they are changing their verdicts to guilty because they did not want to be here any more and were tired and ready to go home,” wrote Cynthia Dale LeBlanc, one of 12 jurors hearing the case.
According to the record, the jury had deadlocked with nine voting guilty and three for acquittal after only two hours and 36 minutes of deliberation.
Judge Anne L. Simon sent the jury back into the jury room with instructions to resume deliberation and with assurance that some of their complaints would be addressed. One juror, specifically, had asked to be able to smoke.
When the jury reemerged, the vote was 11 to one. It takes at least 10 votes to convict in a second-degree murder case.
On Nov. 4, 1996, Haggins, then 18 and now 31, was convicted in the Sept. 10, 1995, slaying of Chastant at the Cypress Garden Apartments. According to testimony in the trial, Chastant was stabbed five times with a knife that been passed around as a curio among a party of revelers.
In addition to LeBlanc, at the time a hairdresser from the St. Martinville area, the jury consisted of:
Russell Angelle, the jury foreman, a pipefitter from Arnaudville; Sophie Montet, a sewer at Martin Mills, Arnaudville; Leorine St. Julien, a housewife, St. Martinville; Joseph Guilbeau, an office manager from Cecilia; Josette Johnson, a babysitter, St. Martinville; Rex Berard, boat captain, Breaux Bridge; Raymond Chevalier, a forklift operator at Martin Mills, Arnaudville; Daniel Theriot, diesel mechanic, St. Martinville; Vickie Joseph, occupation not given, Cypress Island; Mary Tatum, a medical secretary from Belle River; and Stella Broussard, a nurse from Breaux Bridge.
Prosecuting the case as Keith Comeaux, now a district judge in the 16th Judicial District.
Haggins’ court-appointed attorney was M. Craig Colwart of New Iberia.
Richard Spears of New Iberia represents Haggins now.