Convicted murderer in 2011 drive-by-shooting gets favorable ruling from State Supreme Court

Convicted murderer in 2011 drive-by-shooting gets favorable ruling from State Supreme Court

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - It was a case that stunned the community when 14-year-old Alexus Rankins was wounded in a drive by shooting near Dixie Drive and Creole Street. The teen was an innocent bystander in a crowd of people when she was hit. She died soon after. Ultimately, Sean Newton was convicted of first-degree murder and other charges and is serving life in prison.

Now, eight years after Newton’s conviction, the Louisiana Supreme Court finds the trial court should consider certain issues raised by the defense.

Calcasieu District Attorney John DeRosier doubts that will change anything, “The court did not reverse conviction. They did not overturn conviction. It simply said, ‘go back to the trial court and let the trial court determine the validity of these issues,’” said DeRosier.

In criminal trials, the state is required to turn over any evidence favorable to the defense. And in applying for relief, the defense said the state withheld information favorable to Newton, but DeRosier disputes that.

"At that time a prosecutor looked at the report and determined there was no information in the report that was favorable to the defendant and it was not turned over for that reason. We didn't have to turn it over because it was not favorable," said DeRosier.

In the trial, defense attorneys argued some witnesses were lying to save their own skin—and now another issue is immunity agreements drawn up but not shown to the defense, but DeRosier says no witnesses had agreements, so they’re not relevant.

"There were immunity agreements prepared that were never used. They were not granted immunity. So, there was no relevance to the immunity agreements because nobody got it," he said.

Defense Attorney handling Newton’s appeal, Paul Barker, of New Orleans has asked for a hearing on evidence he says was withheld.

Barker sent us a statement concerning the State Supreme Court ruling:

I am thrilled to see that the Supreme Court was able to recognize the injustice that would have resulted had the trial court’s ruling been upheld. There is ample evidence to establish that the Calcasieu DA’s office withheld favorable evidence from the defense in its prosecution of Mr. Newton, and it is only because of the Supreme Court’s ruling that I will now be able to prove up the ethical violations committed by the prosecutors who tried this case. For that, I could not be more thankful. I hope this decision by our state’s high court sends a message to the Calcasieu DA’s office that it is no longer acceptable to violate a defendants constitutional rights by withholding favorable evidence. This type of unfair prosecution has become all too common in this DA’s office and it is time for it to stop

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