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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

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Court rejects convicted killer’s appeal

Court rejects convicted killer’s appeal

A 40-year-old Raceland man convicted of ordering the 2013 killing of a confidential informant will continue serving a life sentence after a court rejected his appeal.

Toronzo Thompkins was convicted May 26, 2017 of the second-degree murder of Nikki Landry, 41, of Larose. The jury also found him guilty of negligent homicide in the death of Landry’s acquaintance, 54-year-old Harry Lefort, of Cut Off.

The victims were shot Sept. 22, 2013, in Landry’s apartment on West Fourth Street. Landry was to testify against Thompkins in his cocaine distribution trial that week.

Thompkins was convicted of the drug charge despite Landry’s death and has been serving life in prison at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola.

His son, Traveyon Blackledge, has already been convicted of both killings, and a third defendant, Jerrard Major Sr., pleaded guilty last July to conspiracy to commit murder and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Evidence presented during the trial included jail recordings of phone calls made by Thompkins to acquaintances, including Blackledge, seeking to have Landry killed to prevent her testimony.

Thompkins challenged his conviction, claiming that he encountered a juror in the hallway while officers were escorting him to a bathroom. The defendant alleged the juror saw him handcuffed and shackled and heard deputies refer to him as “prisoner or inmate.”

Because his “right to be brought into court with the appearance of dignity and self-respect of a free and innocent man” was violated in front of a juror, Thompkins demanded a new trial, records show. The defendant also asked for the name and address of the juror so “he could subpoena her to appear and testify about the manner and degree the encounter affected her verdict.”

Prosecutors contended the jurors’ identities were not hidden from Thompkins during his trial and the juror he said he encountered in the hallway could have been identified if an objection had been timely made.

The trial court had denied the defendant’s motion for a new trial because the defendant’s jailhouse telephone calls were brought up during the trial, which made it apparent Thompkins was incarcerated.

Thompkins then brought the matter to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal, which rendered its ruling on Feb. 28.

In its six-page ruling, the appellate court said the defense’s failure to make an objection about the juror incident prior to the verdict negates the issue.

“The defendant’s testimony established his attorneys knew of the juror encounter but did not object, choosing to wait until after the verdict to raise the issue as the basis for a new trial,” the court wrote. “The untimely objection in the motion for a new trial failed to resurrect the issue waived by lack of contemporaneous objection. The trial court correctly denied the motion for a new trial urged on that basis. For the same reasons, the trial court correctly denied the motion to disclose the identity of the juror.”


-- Daily Comet Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 448-7639 or at Follow him on Twitter @DanVCopp.