Judge refuses to toss murder conviction

A state district judge rejected a motion Wednesday to throw out the second-degree murder conviction of a Tangipahoa Parish man whose estranged girlfriend suffered fatal injuries when she either jumped or was pushed from a moving car.

Twentieth Judicial District Judge George H. Ware Jr. sentenced Antwoene Irving, 34, of Roseland, to life in prison in the death of Kiewanna Sopsher, 33, on April 5, 2011.

Although Sopsher was killed in Tangipahoa Parish, Irving put her body back into her car and drove around for three hours before he stopped the vehicle on Plank Road in East Feliciana Parish, detectives testified during his trial last month.

An East Feliciana Parish jury deliberated less than 45 minutes before returning the guilty verdict.

Defense attorney Chuck Ward argued Wednesday, as he did during the trial, that prosecutors introduced no evidence that Irving shoved Sopsher from the car while they were arguing.

Sopsher’s son testified that
Irving pushed his way into the car outside her Roseland home and choked her before driving away.

Ward told Ware that he would concede that Irving was guilty of negligent homicide but not felony murder.

Ward pointed to an Oct. 16 state Supreme Court decision to reverse a Shreveport woman’s second-degree murder conviction and find her guilty of negligent homicide in the death by fire of one of her children.

The high court ruled that Satonia Small’s action in leaving her small children home alone at night was not a “direct act” of killing but a criminally negligent act of lack of supervision that resulted in a child’s death.

Prosecutor Lea Hall, of Caddo Parish, said the Small ruling does not apply to Irving’s case because he choked and abducted Sopsher immediately before her death.

Regardless of whether Sopsher jumped or was pushed from the car, “escaping second-degree kidnapping is evidence of second-degree murder,” Hall said. “This was no case of negligence.”

The victim’s mother, Carolyn McCoy, testified briefly before Ware sentenced Irving, saying she sometimes reaches for the phone to call her daughter before realizing she is dead.

“I can’t sleep because my daughter is gone. I go to her grave and talk to her,” McCoy said.

Ward said Irving will appeal the verdict.