By jason brown
July 10, 2012
LAFAYETTE — The Louisiana Supreme Court has upheld the 2010 conviction of a Lafayette Parish woman convicted of killing her live-in boyfriend in 2009.
A Lafayette Parish jury found Mary Henderson Trahan guilty of second-degree murder in the death of George Barbu following a one-day trial in Lafayette.
The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal acquitted Trahan last year on appeal, ruling the evidence presented at trial did not support her conviction nor would it support a judgment of guilt on the lesser offenses of manslaughter or negligent homicide.
Prosecutor Daniel M. Landry III appealed to the state Supreme Court, which issued its decision Monday.
In an 11-page ruling, the high court wrote a rational trier of fact could find that “defendant had the specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm,” adding “other scenarios involving an accidental discharge of the revolver ... were possible but not so probable that a rational juror would necessarily have a reasonable doubt as to defendant’s guilt.”
Trahan’s defense counsel, D. Warren Ashy, argued at trial that Trahan accidentally shot Barbu after she slipped and fell while holding the gun.
The shooting occurred after Trahan had persuaded Barbu to give her the gun, which he had been waving around during an argument.
Trahan did not take the stand and the Supreme Court said jurors heard no evidence she had been in a tumultuous relationship with Barbu, or that they had quarreled that day, or that she had slipped on the bathroom floor as he confronted her.
“Instead, both sides argued the case from the perspective of what happened after the shooting,” the court said.
The court added the state emphasized police found no evidence Trahan tried to help Barbu after the shooting while the defense countered she was frantic, in a state of hysteria and was waving to the police as they arrived, urging them to go inside.
“The failure of either side to establish a larger context for the shooting played a critical role in the court of appeal’s decision to reverse defendant’s conviction and sentence,” the court said.
The high court later wrote “given the sparseness of the state’s case, the court of appeal majority found themselves ‘firmly convinced that the only explanation for the jury’s verdict of second-degree murder was the information supplied to them in the opening and closing arguments,’” neither of which constitute evidence.
The high court also said while Trahan’s attorney mentioned his client’s statement to police about the accidental shooting, jurors never heard that statement during the trial.
John Clay Lejeune represented Trahan during her appeal.
The case will be remanded back to the 15th Judicial District Court, which will impose Trahan’s life sentence.