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Due to new nonunanimous jury rule, man serving life sentence for killing his girlfriend's rapist may get new trial

4 months 3 weeks 4 days ago Friday, May 01 2020 May 1, 2020 May 01, 2020 8:25 AM May 01, 2020 in News
Source: The Advocate
Based on a the Supreme Court's recent decision to outlaw nonunanimous jury verdicts, Jace Crehan, a 26-year-old who has been serving a life sentence for killing the man who molested his girlfriend, may get a new trial.  Photo: The Advocate

BATON ROUGE - Based on a the Supreme Court's recent decision to outlaw nonunanimous jury verdicts, a 26-year-old who has been serving a life sentence for killing the man who molested his girlfriend may get a new trial. 

According to The Advocate, Jace Crehan, accused of the 2015 slaying of his girlfriend's attacker, Robert Noce Jr., was found guilty of second-degree murder by an East Baton Rouge Parish jury in a vote of 11-1 in 2017.

At the time, split-jury verdicts were legal in the state. 

But that changed in the fall of 2018 when Louisiana voters approved a constitutional amendment doing away with the state's Jim Crow-era nonunanimous jury law.

The new Louisiana law applies only to crimes that occurred on or after Jan. 1, 2019.

The law was changed again, last month.

On April 20, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that juries nationwide must be unanimous to convict a criminal defendant. The ruling applies to all future trials, and to inmates who were convicted by divided juries and haven't exhausted their appeals.

The day Crehan was sentenced by state District Judge Tony Marabella in January 2018, his attorneys filed a motion for a new trial, arguing, among other things, that his nonunanimous verdict was unconstitutional. 

The judge denied the motion before sentencing Crehan to life behind bars.

On Monday, the Supreme Court vacated the denial of Crehan's motion and sent the case to the 1st Circuit for a decision on whether the nonunanimous jury issue was "properly raised" by Crehan in the trial court.

Franz Borghardt, one of Crehan's trial attorneys, said Crehan's legal team believes the issue was raised properly after the trial.

Borghardt hopes the appellate court will send the case back to the 19th Judicial District Court for a new trial.

The significance of the ruling, he said, "is it breathes life into Jace's case."

Crehan's girlfriend, Brittany Monk, 22, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the July 4, 2015, slaying of Noce and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Crehan tried to plead guilty to the same charge before his trial, but prosecutors turned him down.

Noce, who two weeks before his death had been put on probation after pleading "no contest" to molesting Monk as a child, was stabbed, strangled and stuffed inside a 55-gallon barrel that Monk said Noce used to make wine.

Noce, 47, was a former boyfriend of Monk's mother and raised Monk for about 10 years after her mother abandoned her. He denied abusing Monk.

Monk was 17 and seven months pregnant with Crehan's child when she and Crehan broke into Noce's trailer the night of July 4, 2015.

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