Sentence deemed too lenient in slaying, 1st Circuit will give new judge a try

Judge reversed 3 times in slaying

Another judge will have to decide the fate of a Hammond woman sentenced in 2013 to one day in jail for manslaughter, after an appeals court ruled Monday that the sentence was illegally lenient.

A Tangipahoa Parish jury deliberated for more than four hours Feb. 1, 2013, before convicting Shawn Gilmore, 44, of manslaughter in the stabbing death of her live-in boyfriend, Alvin Collier, on Nov. 26, 2010.

Gilmore had claimed she stabbed Collier in self-defense after an altercation in which he refused to leave the home, shoved her in the kitchen and fought for the knife she drew against him.

Prosecutors argued the 911 call, in which Collier’s voice was muffled and distant, proved the couple could not have been struggling the entire time leading up to the fatal strike.

A three-judge panel of the state First Circuit Court of Appeal, in a split decision, ruled Monday that Judge Brenda Bedsole Ricks, of the 21st Judicial District in Amite, abused her discretion Nov. 5 in sentencing Gilmore to a single day in jail with credit for time served.

Manslaughter carries a possible sentence of up to 40 years in prison.

Although trial courts have wide discretion in imposing a sentence within statutory limits, that discretion is not unlimited, Judges James Kuhn and Mitchell Theriot said in the judgment.

They ordered the case back to the trial court, where a new judge will resentence Gilmore.

Kuhn and Theriot noted this was Ricks’ second time sentencing Gilmore and third decision in the case that had been overturned.

Ricks originally sentenced Gilmore on Oct. 8 to five years imprisonment at hard labor, but suspended the sentence and ordered five years of bench-supervised probation.

Prosecutors appealed, arguing the sentence violated a state law that prohibits suspended sentences for violent crimes. The appeals court agreed and ordered that Gilmore be resentenced.

Ricks previously had granted Gilmore’s request for a new trial, a decision the Louisiana Supreme Court also found to be an abuse of discretion.

“Neither collectively nor individually (were) any of the reasons cited by the trial court grounds for granting a new trial,” the Supreme Court said.

In its ruling Monday, the First Circuit said, “The new judge is ordered to review the entire record and order a presentence investigation report, if the report has not been ordered, prior to issuing a new sentence.”

Judge Toni Higginbotham dissented from that ruling.

Higginbotham said the appeals court should have refused to hear the case because prosecutors failed to include the Nov. 5 sentencing transcript, 911 recordings, Gilmore’s initial statement to the police and other evidence that might have supported a motion to reconsider the sentence.