New trial ordered over missing records

NEW ORLEANS A man convicted of murdering a teenager in New Orleans 27 years ago will get a new trial because the old trial transcript was never filed with a state appeals court.

District Judge Frank Marullo, who presided over Michael Baptiste’s original conviction in 1985, ordered a new trial in July.

Baptiste, now 50, was convicted of killing 18-year-old Emile August in a public housing complex while working as a hit man for a drug dealer. Marullo sentenced him to life in prison.

Despite multiple inquiries, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal never received a transcript from the court reporter or judicial administrator.

That means Baptiste never got his legal right to appeal.

The case’s court record also is missing, possibly lost or destroyed during Hurricane Katrina.

“This guy’s sitting there in limbo,” Marullo said.

“It’s not usual. But the system is not a perfect system. Sometimes things go wrong.”

Baptiste, an inmate at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, is due in court Tuesday for a pretrial hearing.

Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, said police and prosecutors “did their jobs” in securing Baptiste’s conviction before “somebody failed in such a mind-boggling way.”

“We’re between a rock and a hard place now,” Bowman said. “We’re going to have to try it again, and do the best we can with what we’ve got.”