Bryce Perkins, the man convicted of the 2009 murder of Marine Daniel Gueringer was supposed to be sentenced this morning. But it was postponed after the defense raised several issues before the court.
Perkins stands convicted of second degree murder of Gueringer after an appeal court decision that reinstates the jury verdict reached in February 2011. That verdict was not unanimous and does not have to be in Louisiana where a 10-2 vote is sufficient.
However, it's an issue raised by Defense Attorney King Alexander. "The legal traditions in which we get our right to trial by jury has always been unanimous jury. It has always taken only one dissenting juror to create a hung jury and a mistrial. Why is it different in Louisiana and Oregon that it takes three jurors to hang a jury instead of one. This makes a huge, significant difference," said Alexander.
However, Prosecutor Rick Bryant disagrees and does not expect the U.S. Supreme Court to change its position. "We have no concern, that's been litigated for twenty years. That's typical defense attorney motion that never has any merit. That's been shot down by both the Supreme Court of the United States, Supreme Court of Louisiana which allows non-unanimous verdicts in certain cases. Doesn't apply to death penalty cases, but in other cases it applies. So, that's been litigated in the past. It's sort of a frivolous motion but I guess defense attorneys feel an obligation to file it in every case," said Bryant.
He says it's up to individual states whether they require a unanimous verdict. "All states could do the same thing Louisiana does. I don't know why they don't. It's very difficult. Can you imagine, in certain areas of the state and country where you have to have unanimous every single time, you know, one person holds out which leads to more jury trials, more hung juries, more delays. I think we have a better system that those states that require unanimity because you can't find people unanimous on anything these days," said Bryant.
Another issue brought up by the defense --whether the jury found specific intent to kill as required. "What exactly happened immediately prior to the firing of the shot. Was it just the accused leveling the gun in a particular direction and discharging it? Was it something that happened, as many witnesses testified, kind of in the struggle and pandemonium?" asked Alexander.
Bryant says the jury's verdict of second degree murder means they did find Perkins had specific intent to kill. "The jury knew exactly what they were doing because they were instructed by the court as to what they had to find in order to return this verdict," said Bryant.
Judge Ron Ware denied all motions and indicated sentencing will go forward on Friday.
Defense attorneys also gave the court a letter from a juror in the case that apparently makes vague suggestions of possible impropriety involving jurors in the case. But at this point neither the state or defense has enough information to say if the allegations have merit. The issue may be raised in post conviction appeals.
Meanwhile, Perkins is set to be sentenced to life in prison at 9 a.m. Friday.