LAFAYETTE — An appellate court on Wednesday upheld the manslaughter conviction of a man serving a one-year home detention sentence for the December 2009 shooting death of 40-year-old David Trahan.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed Jerry Steinle’s conviction for manslaughter in Trahan’s death.
State District Judge Edward Rubin found Steinle guilty in August 2011 after a bench trial in Lafayette Parish.
During the trial, Steinle, a retired helicopter pilot, testified he shot Trahan three times in self-defense after Trahan struck him across the face during a confrontation under Steinle’s carport on Rena Drive. The encounter occurred after Trahan wrote “Jerry has sex with little boys” across Steinle’s door.
That encounter was preceded by another such incident in 2005 when Trahan was arrested for spray-painting the word “pedophile” across the roof of Steinle’s home.
Rubin initially gave Steinle a three-year suspended sentence, but amended that sentence after Prosecutor Keith Stutes argued in a court motion that people convicted of crimes of violence are to be denied the benefit of suspended sentences.
In an appeal, Steinle’s attorney, Thomas E. Guilbeau, argued that the state failed to disprove the shooting was in self-defense. Guilbeau also argued the evidence was insufficient to sustain a conviction for manslaughter.
In its ruling, the appellate court wrote that Steinle “testified that he made no effort to go into the house and call police once he saw the victim standing in the carport. Rather, he chose to engage in a verbal confrontation with the victim and later fired three shots.”
The court also found the state did meet its burden of proof that the Steinle did not shoot the victim in self-defense, “and the evidence was sufficient to support a conviction of manslaughter,” adding later that “no evidence exists that the victim was armed, and defendant made no effort to retreat when confronted by the victim. The defendant’s actions, therefore, were disproportionate to any perceived threat posed by the victim.”
Guilbeau on Wednesday said he will appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.
“I’m really surprised and disappointed in the ruling,” Guibeau said.
Steinle’s house arrest is scheduled to end this month, Guilbeau said.