LAFAYETTE, La. (KPLC) - The penalty phase in the trial of Kevin Daigle is now under way to determine if Daigle should face death for murdering State Trooper Steven Vincent. Both the State and Defense made impassioned pleas in their opening statements..
The state seeks death for Daigle; the defense pleads for life in prison.
Calcasieu Assistant D.A. Jacob Johnson told jurors that because Daigle wanted to escape responsibility for his actions he took away from the community a combat veteran, a state trooper, a professional, a brother, a father and a loyal and loving husband. Johnson also warned jurors they would hear from defense experts whose findings the state significantly disagrees with.
The jury also heard from Defense Attorney Kyla Romanach who, first acknowledged the terrible pain the Vincent family has endured...a family she described as beautiful.
She told jurors no matter what Kevin Daigle will be punished and will die at Angola, that the question is whether he dies of natural causes or at the hands of the state.
Romanach urged jurors to listen with their hearts and consider, in a country were life is valued, that a death sentence is exceptional, a last resort. Romanach also told jurors about Daigle’s difficult childhood with a father who was a violent and abusive alcoholic.
Plus, she told jurors Daigle has had a life filled with physical pain from car and motorcycle accidents, a hunting accident and because he has lupus. Plus, she told jurors Daigle has major depressive disorder.
Also, Romanach told jurors no one should be judged by the worst thing they ever did and that the law never requires the death penalty--that they have the right to choose life .
As the evidence got underway, jurors heard heart wrenching testimony from Steven Vincent’s brother Keith, the Iowa police chief; Steven’s widow Katherine and their 13-year-old son Ethan who was nine when his father was killed.
Most jurors wiped away tears as they watched a slideshow of family pictures from happier times before Steven Vincent died and heard testimony from the family members.
And now, in this critical phase of the first-degree murder trial, the weather could potentially cause problems. The jury is sequestered, or locked up in a hotel, so it’s not a simple matter of postponing the rest of the trial until the weather passes.
Because the trial moved faster than expected, at least two of three defense expert witnesses cannot arrive until Saturday.
Calcasieu District Attorney John DeRosier admits stopping the trial, or cutting short the defense’s part of the case, could seriously jeopardize whether the results of the penalty phase would stand up on appeal. Such decisions are up to Judge Clayton Davis. Still, DeRosier says they are doing everything they can to assure the trial continues moving forward, despite the weather.
“The National Weather Service issued a prediction that the storm, I’m going to say starting at 7 O’clock Saturday morning, would be at the Louisiana coast headed straight toward Lafayette, with 85 mile an hour hurricane strength winds. We are endeavoring to prepare for that contingency and stay here in Lafayette. I don’t think it would be any worse than that but our biggest concern in Lafayette would be high water. I’ve talked to the sheriff’s department and Lafayette City Police. They have assured us they are preparing for that contingency on our behalf and they will be able to get the jury back and forth to the courthouse. They’ll be able to get us back and forth to the courthouse if necessary,” said DeRosier.
The trial resumes at 9 a.m. Thursday in Lafayette, when the defense is expected to put on a couple of witnesses.