NEW ORLEANS – Last week, District Attorney Jason Williams’s Office secured the conviction of defendant Gerald “Frog” West for the murder of Marion Brit Hutson, Jr. in New Orleans East in February 2018. Led by Assistant District Attorneys (ADA) Simone Levine and Brad Scott, West was found guilty of Manslaughter, Armed Robbery and Obstruction of Justice. Additionally, ADAs Levine and Scott secured the conviction of the co-defendant, Leander LeFrance, via guilty plea for Obstruction of Justice and Accessory to Murder.
“We have been clear; we are surging back against the crime that is happening in our city. The resumption of jury trials has allowed us to get back to the work of prosecuting cases and holding people accountable,” said District Attorney Williams. “I am proud of the hard work of the prosecutors on the case, ADAs Simone Levine and Brad Scott, in presenting a compelling case to the jury and navigating the evidence in a way that provided a clear depiction of exactly what happened. Also, thank you to our partners at the NOPD, specifically Detective Michael Poluikis, who did a great job of collecting evidence including digital forensics and ballistics reports which we used to prosecute the defendant. This work across agencies is proof of our shared four point plan in action.”
According to the New Orleans Police Department reports, LeFrance arranged a gun sale between West and the victim. As the sale was taking place, West robbed the victim and subsequently, murdered him shooting him in the head, abdomen and shoulder. After the shooting, West disposed of the guns.
The conviction took place in Section E of Criminal District Court; Judge Rhonda Goode-Douglas presided. Sentencing will take place in May 2022.
This conviction builds on the work of prosecutors to secure convictions in court since the resumption of jury trials.
- DA Williams, along with OPDA Trials Division Chief Matthew Derbes, secured the conviction of defendant Samuel Hunter for the Second Degree Murder of Anthony Bridges in the 1700 block of Monroe Street on Christmas Day 2020.
- ADAs Liz Strauss and Adele Krieger secured the conviction of Demeccio Caston for the Second Degree Murder of Patrick Lamar in New Orleans East in August 2019.
- ADAs Samantha Stagias and Carmen Gealogo secured the conviction of Trae Williams for the manslaughter of his uncle Eddie Salvant III in Algiers in April 2014.
- Chief Derbes and ADA Joe Zanetti secured the conviction of Harrison Bethley for the murder of his cousin, Darnell Thomas, in the 1800 block of Treasure Street in February 2020.
- Lastly, DA Williams, along with OPDA Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) Division Chief Mary Glass and ADA Naomi Jones, secured the conviction of defendant William McDonough for the rape of a victim in the 900 block of Poeyfarre Street in September 2016.
UNPRECEDENTED REALITIES AS JURY TRIALS RESUME
After a COVID-induced hiatus, jury trials resumed in New Orleans. While OPDA prosecutors are ready to get back to court, the office is faced with some unprecedented realities. This includes an unprecedented case backlog with 150 cases scheduled for trial in March 2022 alone; this is compared to only 48 jury trials that took place in all of 2019. Additionally, this includes an unprecedented DNA backlog with the State; the DNA backlog across Louisiana includes over 2,000 cases. OPDA is waiting on key evidence in a number of cases. Additionally, OPDA is tackling some of the most difficult cases inherited including retrying 60 reversals based on Ramos v. Louisiana, cases where the office was unable to procure unanimous jury verdicts when they were originally tried years ago.
“We are prosecutors. Trying cases in front of a jury is what we do, so we are excited to back to court. However, we are faced with some of the most unprecedented challenges this office has ever seen. From an increased case load to a large DNA backlog, our office needs support and resources from City leadership,” said District Attorney Williams. “These times are absolutely the most challenging we’ve faced in recent history, but we are holding those who commit violent offenses accountable and securing justice for the victims and families. This office will be steadfast in restoring trust in our criminal legal system by securing convictions in some of the most difficult cases as well as addressing decades of indifference to the concerns of community.”