BATONROUGE, La. - Death row inmate Rogers Lacaze is one step closer to getting a chance to present new evidence in court as he appeals his conviction in the 1995 triple murder of a police officer and two employees at Kim Ahn restaurant.
Ad Hoc Judge Michael Kirby has been appointed to replace trial Judge Frank Marullo to hear Lacaze's post-conviction appeal after the state Supreme Court upheld Marullo's recusal. Attorneys for Lacaze and co-defendant Antoinette Frank successfully argued that Marullo exhibited bias and kept evidence out of their 1995 trials.
With Lacaze being watched by Angola prison guards, Kirby heard arguments from Lacaze's attorneys Thursday on a motion for prosecutors to turn over any additional evidence that could help their client. Attorneys for the Louisiana Capital Appeals Project say they already have discovered previously hidden evidence that police suspected another man at the time Lacaze was arrested and gave what they are alleging was a coerced confession.
The attorneys say the other suspect is Adam Frank, brother of Antoinette Frank, the former police officer who also was sentenced to death in the killings. In a crime that sent shock waves through the city, Frank's police partner Ronald Williams was killed along with brother and sister Cuong and Ha Vu, who helped their parents run the family restaurant.
In his appeal, Lacaze claims that Adam Frank was caught with the Kim Ahn murder weapon and bragged that he had killed a New Orleans cop. Adam Frank is now serving time behind bars for an unrelated armed robbery.
Judge Kirby also heard arguments by the district attorney's office to block Lacaze's claim that he should get a new trial because his attorney was incompetent. Prosecutors say the claim can't be pursued because the trial attorney, Willie Turk, is deceased and can't defend his trial strategy.
Kirby said he would rule on the motions within the next few weeks.