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Sunday, May 26, 2019

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Court of Appeal upholds Raceland woman’s double murder conviction

Court of Appeal upholds Raceland woman’s double murder conviction

The United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday affirmed the dismissal of federal claims raised by a Raceland woman convicted in 2009 of the first-degree murder of her two children.

Amy Hebert had asked federal courts to throw out her double murder convictions and grant her a new trial on constitutional grounds.

“We are obviously pleased that the Fifth Circuit ruled in our favor,” said Lafourche Parish District Attorney Kristine Russell, one of three prosecutors who tried the six-week case along with then-DA Cam Morvant and ADA Joe Soignet. “We tried a good case as well as a clean case, and this ruling vindicates all of the hard work we put in so long ago.

“Our fight for justice doesn’t end with a conviction,” Russell continued. “A case like this shows that it’s just as important to uphold a successful verdict as it is to get one.”

Hebert was convicted by a Lafourche Parish jury of murdering her two children on April 20, 2007. At trial, the defense did not contest the fact that Hebert had stabbed her children, but contended that she was insane at the time she did so.

The jury rejected the insanity defense and found Hebert guilty as charged on both counts, but deadlocked on whether to impose the death penalty. Accordingly, she was sentenced to life in prison without the benefit of probation or parole. Her convictions and sentences were affirmed by Louisiana’s First Circuit Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

Hebert then unsuccessfully challenged her convictions in state post-conviction proceedings before seeking to have her Louisiana convictions thrown out in federal court, alleging numerous grounds in a civil petition for habeas corpus relief. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana dismissed all of her claims on February 21, 2017.

She then appealed that judgment to the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on only two grounds, contending that prosecutors discriminated against potential jurors based on gender, and that the evidence at trial was insufficient to prove that she was not insane at the time of the crimes. The case was argued before a three-judge panel in early February. In a detailed opinion published yesterday, the Fifth Circuit rejected both claims.

“With every court victory in our favor, the hurdles get higher and higher for the defendant,” said Morvant, who served as lead counsel during the homicide trial. “This ruling is significant in that regard, and it doesn’t leave her with too many remaining options.”

Hebert can either petition the Fifth Circuit to reconsider its ruling or ask the United States Supreme Court to look at the case, said Soignet, who handled the federal court litigation for the District Attorney’s Office. Hebert has fourteen days to petition the court for a rehearing. Otherwise, she would have ninety days to petition the United States Supreme Court for writs of certiorari to review the Fifth Circuit ruling.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals covers the states of Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi.