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New hearing for man convicted in 1998 St. Bernard rape, home invasion. He 'wasn't even there.'

The state 4th Circuit Court of Appeal ruled in the case of Jarvis Ballard, convicted of aggravated rape in St. Bernard Parish.

NEW ORLEANS — One of three men convicted in a 1998 home invasion and rape is entitled to a hearing on whether prosecutors withheld evidence that could clear him, a state appeal court has ruled.

The state 4th Circuit Court of Appeal ruled in the case of Jarvis Ballard, convicted of aggravated rape in St. Bernard Parish. Ballard was 18 at the time of the crime, according to the Innocence Project New Orleans, the nonprofit advocacy group that is handling his case.

Among the issues on appeal are whether prosecutors in his 1999 trial withheld evidence favorable to his defense — including a statement by one of the other convicted men that Ballard “wasn't even there" — and other statements from the victim and witnesses indicating the crime was committed by only two people. The two other men convicted were linked to the attack by DNA.

Ballard’s DNA was not found at the scene, according to court records. And the court said DNA test results on additional rape kit evidence, conducted since the trial, can also be considered at the hearing, the appeal court said.

The 36-page 4th Circuit ruling, dated Wednesday, noted that Ballard's attorney in 1999 was handling his first case in St. Bernard Parish. The attorney thought prosecutors had turned over the relevant evidence. He never sent anyone to look at prosecutors' files in the case, the opinion said.

Thus, he was unaware that prosecutors had statements and other evidence that there were only two people involved in the crime. The ruling says the district court must hold a hearing to determine whether prosecutors illegally withheld such information or, if they didn't, whether the defense attorney's failure to examine available files constituted ineffective assistance of counsel.