Ex-Tulane player gets new trial

A former Tulane University football player’s 2008 attempted manslaughter and aggravated battery conviction for a brutal Bourbon Street knife fight was scrapped Friday by an Orleans Parish judge.

Ray Boudreaux Jr. was granted a new trial by Criminal District Court Judge Arthur Hunter, who agreed Boudreaux’s attorneys had botched his defense. The attorneys, Hunter wrote in his ruling, failed to present surveillance video from a nearby strip club and call witnesses to the fight that could have bolstered the football player’s claim that he was defending himself against an angry mob.

On a night in September 2007, a dozen people were involved in a brawl outside the Utopia nightclub on Bourbon Street. Police and prosecutors alleged that Boudreaux was the aggressor, and showed surveillance videos of the brawl at trial, which they alleged showed Boudreaux charging toward the others, slashing at them with a knife, according to news accounts at the time.

Four men suffered knife wounds — one was cut seven times, another was left with brain damage. Boudreaux maintained that he was the victim, and acted only in defense of himself and others.

Boudreaux, 28, of Abbeville, was originally charged with five counts of attempted second-degree murder, for the five victims of the attack. But after a four-day trial in June 2008, a jury acquitted him on one count and found him guilty of lesser charges on the others. He was convicted on one count of aggravated battery and three counts of attempted manslaughter. The jury split, with 10-2 and 11-1 verdicts. Louisiana is one of two states that allows for a non-unanimous guilty verdict.

Hunter sentenced him to a total of 10 years.

But Boudreaux was granted something of a reprieve — Hunter opted to set a $200,000 appeal bond, an unusual allowance for someone facing a decade in prison on a violent crime conviction.

Boudreaux avoided prison for four years while awaiting higher state courts to review his conviction. Louisiana’s 4th Circuit Court of Appeal eventually denied his request, as did the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Last November, he exhausted his appeals and reported to prison to begin serving his sentence.

But Boudreaux, granted new attorneys with the Loyola Law Clinic, returned to Hunter with a request for a new trial.

His new attorneys argued that his original attorneys provided a sloppy and inadequate defense at his original trial.

Among his complaints, Boudreaux said that the owner of a Bourbon Street strip club had told police that he both watched the entire melee and caught it on his club’s video camera. Prosecutors alerted his defense attorneys to the witness and video, though they did not present them to the jury.

His trial attorney testified at a recent hearing, and offered no explanation for the oversight, the judge wrote in his ruling.

“The existence of a video which likely corroborated Boudreaux’s account of the events would have cast doubt in the jury’s mind regarding the state’s assertion that Boudreaux was the aggressor,” Hunter wrote in agreement with Boudreaux’s complaint.

Hunter also agreed with Boudreaux on two other points: Boudreaux’s trial attorneys failed to analyze one of the victim’s medical records or call an expert witness to note that his injuries might not have been caused during the attack. And they neglected to subpoena two witnesses, one who told police they saw a man of a different description wielding the knife, and another who said he saw Boudreaux “begging for sanctuary and being attacked as he tried to flee.”

The latter, the judge noted, would have also bolstered Boudreaux’s claims that he was acting in self-defense.

His original trial attorneys could not be reached for comment on Saturday.

Chris Bowman, spokesman for District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, would say only that his office is disappointed with Hunter’s ruling, and the corresponding requirement that they prepare to try Boudreaux a second time.

His office intends to ask the 4th Circuit to review his decision, and will appear before Hunter Monday morning to request that the proceedings be halted — and Boudreaux kept in prison — until the appeals court responds.