Detective, city-parish want judge to dismiss Porter lawsuit

A police detective and the city-parish want a federal judge to throw out Baton Rouge lawyer Joel Porter’s lawsuit that accuses the cold case detective of defaming him and of using too much force when serving a search warrant on him last March in a renewed probe into the 1985 stabbing death of Porter’s wife.

Detective John Dauthier, in recent court filings, denies the allegations raised by Porter in his January lawsuit. Attorneys for Dauthier and the city-parish are asking U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick to dismiss the suit.

Porter claims in his suit that Dauthier had no basis to stop him near the merger of Interstates 10 and 12 on March 7, 2013, and collect a DNA sample from him. He also contends Dauthier used “unlawful, excessive, unwarranted, and unprovoked” force on him.

“Defendants did not use any force which was unnecessary or excessive under the circumstances or which rises to the level of a constitutional violation,” Parish Attorney Mary Roper and Special Assistant Parish Attorney Tedrick Knightshead state in a March 12 answer to Porter’s suit.

“If force was used ..., then the only force used was that force reasonably necessary for defendants to bring plaintiff under control in order to protect the life and safety of plaintiff and all others present, and to maintain the security of the situation,” they add.

Porter alleges in his suit the multiple police vehicles used in the interstate stop “caused a spectacle and the intent by Dauthier was to embarrass and humiliate Joel and to further slander him before the public.

“At no point in time was Joel ever free to leave from within the overwhelming presence of the police officers that surrounded him, nor did Joel ever feel that he was free to leave,” the suit says.

Steve Irving, a lawyer who has represented Porter in his dealings with the Baton Rouge Police Department, has said Porter told investigators he would give them the DNA sample at Irving’s office but was stopped on his way.

Porter also accuses Dauthier of “defamation by innuendo” for allegedly providing “an array of false and scandalous” statements to certain media sources, including The Advocate. Porter, for example, claims the detective falsely accused him of running from the police in connection with the collection of his DNA.

Porter says in the suit he had an “ironclad alibi” the night of Denise Porter’s death and the investigation of him is “groundless and baseless.”

“Even after the DNA sample ... failed to provide culpable evidence ..., Dauthier has stubbornly refused to be instructed by the evidence (or the lack thereof) and instead has insisted on harassing Joel by disingenuously and maliciously drawing out an investigation that he knows has no basis in evidence,” Porter’s suit alleges.

Porter, who maintains his innocence and has never been arrested in his wife’s March 1985 death, told detectives at that time that he came home from working the night shift at the U.S. Post Office on Florida Boulevard and discovered her body on the floor of their North Lobdell Boulevard apartment. Denise Porter was 20.

In the past year, authorities have taken a fresh look at the case, reinterviewing witnesses and testing crime-scene evidence with technology that was unavailable three decades ago.

A search warrant filed in January says Porter “has always been a suspect in his wife’s murder.”

Detectives found a suitcase and suit bag beside the bed, packed with Denise’s clothing.

At the time, Porter told detectives his wife had packed her things and threatened to leave him, the investigative file shows.