NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The Louisiana's 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the murder conviction and life sentence of a man involved in the shooting death of man outside the Superdome in 1999.
Duvander Hurst, 46, was found guilty in June 2000 of the secnd-degree murder of 19-year-old Allen Delatte.
Delatte was killed outside the New Orleans' Superdome on June 7, 1999.
Hurst applied for post-conviction relief based on the alleged recantation of eyewitness William Varnado's trial testimony in April 2013, according to the report.
Evidentiary hearings on Hurst's application for post-conviction relief were held on April 15, 2016, and June 10, 2016. Criminal District Judge Camille Buras ultimately denied Hurst's application on Sept. 8, 2017. On Wednesday, an appellate panel of 4th Circuit Judges James McKay, Terri Love and Sandra Cabrina Jenkins unanimously backed Buras' decision.
Assistant District Attorney Kyle Daly provided the courts with recorded jailhouse phone calls involving Hurst that dispelled Varnado's 2013 claim that his eyewitness testimony had been coached by an NOPD detective and was coerced by police and prosecutors.
"The state maintains that the recorded conversations between defendant and his friends and family strongly indicate that Varnado's recantation was a farce," Chief Judge McKay wrote in the 4th Circuit opinion. "Based on the record before us, we find – as did the trial court – that assertion has merit."
McKay wrote that Hurst's jailhouse calls, recorded over the course of several months, "present a compelling picture that casts doubt over the credibility of William Varnado's post-conviction actions and testimony.
"The trial court had reason to believe that Varnado's recantation was induced by fear of retribution, once his location was discovered by defendant's associates following Hurricane Katrina. Additionally, the recorded jailhouse phone calls, while not directly dispositive, taken as a whole create extremely suspicious circumstances surrounding Varnado's recantation and the extent to which defendant and/or his associates were involved in its procurement.
"For instance, anytime it appeared that a party on the line with defendant was about to discuss Varnado's recantation, defendant would interrupt and command them to stop talking. There is also some indication from the phone conversations that Varnado's safety would have been placed in danger if he failed to testify at the post-conviction hearing. Finally, it appears from the recorded phone calls that money may have been paid to an unknown recipient in exchange for Varnado's recantation."
McKay concluded, "In light of all the testimony and evidence provided to this court, it is this court's opinion that William Varnado's recantation is wholly uncorroborated, suspicious and is undermined by the overwhelming evidence presented by the state."
Varnado, 37, was charged with perjury in August 2016 and is awaiting trial based on his inconsistent statements. He also remained at large Wednesday with an arrest warrant issued, following his failure to appear in court Feb. 7 on an unrelated charge of theft-multiple offenses, a felony. His attorney, who previously also represented Hurst, has withdrawn from his cases.