Oct. 26, 2000
NEW ORLEANS (APB) -- A judge ordered a mistrial in the case of a police officer accused of rape and sentenced the assistant district attorney on the case to jail for allegedly tampering with evidence.
"I draw no pleasure in reaching this decision," Criminal Court Judge Arthur Hunter said Wednesday as he slapped Assistant District Attorney Lionel Lon Burns with a six-month jail sentence. "Each of us within the criminal justice system have the duty not only to administer justice but to follow the law and demonstrate to society defendants will receive a fair trial and victims will secure justice."
The sentence is the stiffest allowed under Louisiana law. Burns was freed hours later pending an appeal, court officials said.
Second trial for officer
On Wednesday, out of earshot of the jury, the judge agreed. 'Implausible and improbable' In a six-page decision, Hunter described Burn's claims that he had suddenly discovered the napkins last week as "implausible and improbable." The judge noted that neither the police officer who had initially seized the trousers as evidence nor the evidence clerk who logged them in ever noticed the napkins that Burns claimed had been in the pocket all along. Hunter also noted that two of Burn's fellow prosecutors who had helped him prepare for the case had been unaware of the napkins until they were suddenly produced in the second day of the case.
"Assistant District Attorney Tony Rovello testified he was responsible for tracking the evidence, and specifically remembered examining the defendant's uniform and other clothing ... and did not find the thick wad of napkins," Hunter wrote.
Assistant District Attorney Zaren James also denied any knowledge of the napkins, Hunter wrote. Only Assistant District Attorney Keeva Landrum knew anything about the new evidence, the judge wrote. She told the court that Burns had told her about them, but that she had never seen them.
It was not immediately clear whether prosecutors would seek to try Lee a third time. The judge's order barred prosecutors and defense attorneys from discussing the case with the media.