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Third Circuit grants Akeeley Blade new murder trial based on SCOTUS decision

Convictions and sentences for second degree robbery, conspiracy to commit second degree robbery affirmed
Published: Apr. 28, 2021 at 1:31 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - The Third Circuit Court of Appeal has granted Akeeley Blade, 21 of Alexandria, a new trial for his previous conviction and sentence for first degree murder in Rapides Parish based off a U.S. Supreme Court decision that now requires unanimous jury verdicts.

Blade was charged with first degree murder, second degree robbery and conspiracy to commit second degree robbery for the Aug. 2016 beating death of Michael Butler at a Motel 6 in Alexandria. Three others involved - Camryn Lasyone, Travis Weston and Brooke Daniels - entered pleas in the case.

Blade was convicted of the murder charge by a jury through a non-unanimous verdict in Dec. 2017. He received an automatic sentence of life in prison under Louisiana law. However, Blade also faced two other charges - second degree robbery and conspiracy to commit second degree robbery - of which he received convictions through unanimous jury verdicts. He received 30 years for the robbery charge and 15 years for the conspiracy charge to run concurrent with the murder conviction.

Blade’s attorney, Michael Brewer, appealed the conviction and sentences based on several assignments of error following his sentencing in Aug. 2019. In 2020, The U.S. Supreme Court ended non-unanimous jury verdicts in a case it heard called Ramos v. Louisiana. In a ruling by the Third Circuit released Wednesday, the appeal court affirmed the convictions and sentences on the robbery and conspiracy charges, but vacated the conviction and sentence for the murder charge based off the change in the law. That means the murder case will be handed back to the 9th Judicial District Court for a new trial.

We reached out to Brewer for comment.

“We received the opinion today and we’re very happy with the decision as to the sentence and conviction for first degree murder being reversed,” he said. “The conspiracy and robbery charges and sentences were affirmed. We’re going to apply for a writ of review with the Louisiana Supreme Court as to those two convictions and those two sentences.”

Brewer said he has issues with the “sufficiency of the evidence” as it pertains to the conspiracy and robbery charges. He also believes the sentences were excessive.

Former Assistant District Attorney Jermaine Harris, who prosecuted the case, is now in private practice. It’s now assigned to Assistant District Attorney Johnny Giordano. District Attorney Phillip Terrell says the office will re-try the case after a decision is made on Brewer’s writ.

“We were expecting this holding from the Third Circuit,” said Terrell. “We are preparing to move forward to try the murder charge again. The court of appeal upheld Mr. Blade’s convictions and sentences on the conspiracy charge and robbery charge. He was sentenced to 30 years on the robbery. We are going to re-try the murder when the time is appropriate.”

There’s no word yet on when a new trial would take place.

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