Count one: first-degree murder. Guilty.
Count two: first-degree murder. Guilty.
Count three: first-degree murder. Guilty.
It took 12 jurors about an hour to return a unanimous verdict Sunday evening to convict David Brown, 38, of Houma, of the Nov. 4, 2012, slayings of 29-year-old Jacquelin Nieves and her daughters, 7-year-old Gabriela and 1-year-old Izabela, in Lockport.
Prosecutors said Brown also sexually assaulted Jacquelin and Gabriela and set the family's apartment on fire. A forensic pathologist who conducted the victims' autopsies determined Jacquelin and Izabela died from stab wounds, while Gabriela died of smoke inhalation.
The verdict came in front of a packed courtroom on the seventh day of the trial's guilt phase. Attorneys questioned over 20 witnesses and presented over 200 pieces of evidence throughout the week.
A penalty phase in which jurors will decide if Brown should be put to death is set to begin Monday. State District Judge John LeBlanc is presiding over the case at the Lafourche Parish Courthouse Annex in Thibodaux.
FLAWS IN THE EVIDENCE
District Attorney Cam Morvant II began his closing argument Sunday by showing three photos: first the victims, then a family photo including husband and father Carlos Nieves Jr., and finally the victims’ bodies on the ground outside their apartment.
Morvant asked the jury to use common sense to judge the “overwhelming evidence” against Brown.
Lead defense attorney Kerry Cuccia, of New Orleans, noted that all the evidence was circumstantial, as no one actually witnessed the crime.
“Certainly there is evidence that points – points strongly – to David Brown as the perpetrator,” Cuccia admitted.
But each piece of evidence had a flaw, he said, reiterating what he contended in his opening statement last week.
For instance, he pointed out, the forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsies could not say for certain what caused trauma to Jacquelin’s and Gabriela’s genitals. Also, enzymes found on those two victims can be present in other bodily fluids besides semen, and no sperm was found.
Cuccia argued that the DNA testing in the case compared a limited number of people and that analysts couldn’t tell how or when it got on the victims.
Jacquelin’s blood was on sheetrock at the bottom of the stairs, which led Cuccia to speculate that she could have been attacked there.
He also suggested that surveillance videos prosecutors said showed Brown could have shown two separate people.
DISCERNING THE TRUTH
Some test results could have matched anyone in the defendant’s paternal lineage, Morvant acknowledged, but only Brown’s blood was found throughout the apartment. His shirt, which was found at the scene, had his and Jacquelin’s blood on it, and a knife recovered from the scene also contained his and the victims’ DNA.
Morvant said it made no sense that surveillance footage would show the defendant and another supposed killer passing each other about the same time.
The sheetrock at the bottom of the apartment’s stairs had a hole in it when investigators arrived. Morvant suggested that, while trying to escape the apartment, Brown tripped on the stairs, fell and hit the sheetrock.
The crime occurred the morning after residents of the Longueville Apartments had barbecued and watched the LSU game. After a night of drinking, Brown, Bollinger co-worker Adam Billiot and Carlos Nieves had returned to the apartments.
Brown told detectives he eventually left and then tried to go back to Billiot's apartment, where he planned to spend the night, but the door was locked. So, he climbed a fence, walked into a field, came across a shed and slept there.
But Morvant pointed out that no video showed Brown leaving at the time he described.
At Brown's bunkhouse, investigators found Carlos Nieves' shirt and Brown’s jeans in a garbage bag. They also found cigarettes but no lighter.
During questioning, detectives noticed a laceration on Brown’s arm, which he told a nurse he’d cut on a piece of tin.
“His arm was cut at some point in that bedroom when he was killing those three people,” Morvant told the jury. “That’s where his arm was cut.”
-- Staff Writer Bridget Mire can be reached at 448-7639 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @bridget_mire.
Posted on Mon, October 31, 2016
by By Bridget Mire, Daily Comet Staff Writer