Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Tangipahoa Moore Case:Supremes Implications

Friday, November 2, 2007 5:09 PM CDT
Copyright © 2007 Hammond Daily Star - All rights reserved.
Lack of support for public schools is setting up the South for economic failure.

A report from the Atlanta-based nonprofit Southern Education Foundation declares economic crisis is the future of the entire region if the Southern states don't start investing more to help poor children succeed in school.

Southern schools spend less per student than do schools in any other parts of the country.

In Louisiana, 84 percent of students who attend the public schools come from low-income families. These children are not ready for kindergarten. As they grow older, they are likely to repeat grades, drop out of school and have very little chance of getting good-paying jobs.

Hammond's magnet school program, now called the accelerated program, is aimed to promote economic development through educational excellence. It is a big step in the right direction.

But here in Louisiana and all across the South, we've got a very big mountain to climb. This is not the time to invest less in the public schools by implementing tuition tax credits. The already-starved public schools of Louisiana cannot stand it.

Education excellence is important for all children, but our state's future is only as bright as the future of those children who attend the public schools.

Louisiana Supreme Court orders man back to prison
Lower courts granted new trial in murder Saturday, November 03, 2007
By Susan Finch
A 28-year-old man, freed from a life sentence for second-degree murder when a New Orleans judge ordered a new trial last fall, must go back behind bars to resume serving his time, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled Friday.

Overruling decisions by Criminal District Judge Darryl Derbigny and a state appeals court, the high court reinstated Jason Matthis' conviction and sentence in the 1999 beating death of a New Orleans man in a secluded spot near Old Gentilly Road.

Agreeing with Orleans Parish prosecutors, the high court concluded there were not sufficient grounds for Derbigny to order a new trial for Matthis in the murder of pizzeria employee Larry Balderas or for the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal to uphold Derbigny's decision this year.

In a September hearing, Matthis' attorneys told the Supreme Court that his trial before Judge Leon Cannizzaro was flawed by the judge's actions after he heard all the witnesses and closing arguments.

Matthis' appeal attorney Martin Regan contended his client's rights were prejudiced when Cannizzaro went to the crime scene with the lead detective and the prosecutor but without a court reporter.

Matthis' trial attorney, Patrick Fanning, provided ineffective representation, Regan argued, because he got lost on his way to the crime scene and failed to insist that Cannizzaro repeat the field trip.

But the justices concluded there was no showing that Fanning's alleged failures rendered Matthis' conviction unfair.

"It clearly appears that details of the crime scene did not implicate any of the evidence upon which his conviction rests," they said.

Matthis, who was 20 at the time of the killing, has claimed he did not injure Balderas, 48, but was there when his friend, Jason Marullo, attacked Balderas after the two met him at an eastern New Orleans bar.

Police linked Marullo, 19, a second cousin to Criminal District Court Judge Frank Marullo, to the crime, but Marullo was never booked because he died of a drug overdose in Phoenix a month after the killing.

During the trial, prosecutors portrayed the crime as a drug deal gone bad after Balderas left the bar with the two men in search of marijuana. Matthis insisted it was Marullo who attacked the older man and that he pulled Marullo off Balderas. The two drove off, running over Balderas as they fled.

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Susan Finch can be reached at or (504) 826-3340.

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