Second mistrial declared by New Orleans judge in 2018 Mardi Gras double-murder case

Published: Jan. 14, 2023 at 2:57 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - One day after the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed a mistrial ruling in the double-murder trial of two men accused of a mass shooting on Mardi Gras 2018, a New Orleans judge again declared a mistrial to end the proceedings Saturday (Jan. 14) at Orleans Parish Criminal District Court.

Kendall Barnes and Derrick Groves each face two counts of second-degree murder and three counts of attempted second-degree murder in connection with a 2018 Mardi Gras shooting that left two people dead and three wounded.

Barnes and Groves were convicted of the murders in October 2019, but the verdicts were rendered by a 10-2 split jury. The non-unanimous verdict later was deemed unconstitutional, and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal vacated the pair’s convictions and sentences in July 2021, granting their shot at a new trial.

Their new trial before Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Kimya Holmes was declared over by mistrial Thursday night, following an FBI agent’s testimony that one of the defendants had been under surveillance before the 2018 shooting. Defense attorneys objected and Holmes agreed the testimony ended hopes of a fair trial.

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District Attorney Jason Williams’ office challenged Holmes’ Thursday ruling. It was upheld by the 4th Circuit, but reversed on appeal to the state Supreme Court, which ordered the trial to resume Saturday.

But on Saturday, a juror admitted to knowing a witness in the case. That juror was replaced by the lone alternate juror, but another juror on the panel then admitted to reading a news article about the case, in violation of the judge’s instructions.

Holmes again declared a mistrial.

Barnes and Groves each is charged with two counts of second-degree murder for the slayings of 26-year-old Jamar Robinson and 21-year-old Byron Jackson, and with two counts of obstruction of justice in a homicide investigation.

The indictment also charges the alleged gunmen with three counts of attempted second-degree murder, for the shootings of three other men in their mid-20s who survived the Fat Tuesday barrage at 8:18 p.m. in the 5400 block of St. Claude Avenue.

Barnes, 22, and Groves, 21, face mandatory lifetime prison sentences if convicted of either murder charge, and 10 to 50 years each if found guilty on the attempted murder counts. Obstruction of justice in a homicide investigation is punishable by up to 40 years in prison upon conviction.

New Orleans police believe Barnes and Groves opened fire with assault-style rifles upon the five victims outside the crowded party. Three victims were struck as they sat in a red Nissan Altima, while two others were wounded while on the sidewalk near the corner of St. Claude Avenue and Andry Street.

Defense attorney Lionel Lon Burns, who represents Groves, said both sides will meet Wednesday to pick another trial date.

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