(CN) – A man on death row for killing the 3-year-old son of former New Orleans Saint Benny Thompson, as well as Thompson’s ex-wife and her current boyfriend, can appeal his convictions for a different slaying to the Supreme Court, the justices said Monday.
In March 1995, five people in a private Louisiana home were shot dead by armed men looking for drugs and money. A sixth victim, Larry Boatner, who survived with a laceration to his head identified Juan Smith as one of the three shooters.
After Smith was convicted of first-degree murder, investigators later tied him to a February 1995 home invasion, which resulted in the deaths of former New Orleans Saint Benny Thompson’s 3-year-old son, his ex-wife and the ex-wife’s current boyfriend.
While on death row for the Thompson murders, Smith uncovered evidence that would help him challenge his convictions for the March home invasion.
Though Boatner identified Smith as the perpetrator, police files showed that he gave a different story to lead investigator Detective John Ronquillo.
Smith was convicted and sentenced to death, and the Louisiana Supreme Court upheld the sentence and conviction. In accepting Smith’s petition for review on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would look for the possibility of violations of Brady v. Maryland, Giglio v. United States and Napue v. Illinois. In Brady, the high court ruled that it is a violation of due process for prosecutors to suppress evidence that favor the defendant. In Giglio, the court found that defendants are entitled to a new trial if prosecutors failed to inform the jury that a witness had been promised not to be prosecuted in exchange for his testimony. In Napue, the judgment was reversed because a government witness gave false testimony.
The Supreme Court said Monday it would also see if the outcome of Smith’s case would have been different but for such alleged errors, and if the state courts improperly rejected Smith’s Brady, Giglio and Napue claims.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was revised on Jan. 1, 2012, to correctly identify the murder conviction being challenged by defendant Juan Smith. Though Smith was convicted of a February 2005 slaying at the Thompson home, the Supreme Court accepted his petition regarding a quintuple homicide in March of that same year. Courthouse News Service regrets the error.