Judge Canaday to be sanctioned for misconduct in Lake Charles murder case

Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 8:16 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Fourteenth Judicial District Court Judge Mike Canaday admitted to misconduct before the State Judiciary Commission last week, relating to his handling of a Lake Charles murder case.

The State Judiciary Commission will recommend what sanctions should be imposed against Canaday, but the Louisiana Supreme Court makes the final decision.

The misconduct Canaday admits to happened in the case of Dennis Jerome Bartie. Bartie is accused of murdering Rose Born in her Lake Charles donut shop in 1998.

Around 2019 or 2020, Canaday unsealed records dealing with Bartie’s finances after a motion by the state, without the defense receiving any notice or getting a hearing. When defense attorneys found out, they were outraged because they said it revealed their strategy.

“We have no way of knowing if they looked at the records or not. We know this, they should never have had access to the records. They should never have had the records in their possession,” Defense Attorney Todd Clemons said in 2020.

At the time, former Calcasieu District Attorney John DeRosier said no one with his office read the formerly sealed record.

“We have not looked at that record. To the best of my knowledge nobody in this office has looked at that record,” said DeRosier in 2020.

Defense attorneys also argued Canaday too often sided with the state and was reversed.

“The standard is whether a well-informed observer could reasonably question the judge’s impartiality and I think based on what we presented on the record to Judge Davis, we met that standard very easily,” said Defense Attorney Adam Johnson.

The Judiciary Commission finds that the judge’s actions allowed the state access to confidential information they should not have had. The commission also finds Canaday is legitimately contrite and has implemented safeguards to prevent such conduct in the future.

Bartie’s trial is to start May 1 with Judge Clayton Davis presiding.

Bartie’s defense attorneys have no comment at this time.

We contacted Judge Canaday who said, ”No comment.”

The former prosecutor in the case, Hugo Holland, said he hopes Canaday receives minimal punishment as the alleged ethical violations in no way impact his competence as a judge or the quality of his character.

“This is exactly what citizens perceive being wrong with the justice system. Here you have a judge who is a fine man and an exceptional jurist that under the law can have private and secret contact with the criminal defense attorney. However, when the judge wants to do the right thing and make sure the people of the state, as represented by the district attorney, have the option to appeal any decision based on the secret contact with the defense, the judge gets in trouble for it,” Holland said.

We have no word on when the state Supreme Court may decide on sanctions.