Court takes up last-minute motions before Ebony Sonnier trial begins Tuesday

Rapides Parish Judge Mary Doggett heard several last-minute motions in the case of Ebony Sonnier.
Published: Aug. 8, 2022 at 4:40 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 8, 2022 at 5:14 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Rapides Parish Judge Mary Doggett heard several last-minute motions in the case of Ebony Sonnier, who is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of accessory after the fact for her role in the Oct. 18, 2017 deaths of Kendrick Horn and Latish White. Prosecutors allege Ebony aided her brother, Matthew Sonnier, in the killings of Horn and White, who prosecutors said witnessed Matthew kill Jeremy Norris, a third victim that day.

Jury selection begins Tuesday morning.

White’s body was found in the road at the intersection of East Shamrock and Melrose Streets in Pineville. She had been stabbed multiple times. Later, Norris and Horn’s bodies were found shot and wrapped in a pool liner, burning in a ditch on the side of Old Boyce Road in Alexandria.

Ebony’s brother, Matthew, was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences in February after pleading guilty to three counts of first-degree murder for his role in the case.

At Monday’s hearing, Defense Attorney Kerry Cuccia urged Judge Mary Doggett to reconsider allowing in crime scene and autopsy photos that he said were “particularly gruesome.” He thought they would be too harsh to show the jury, “cloud their judgment” and create an undoable prejudice with “little probative value.”

Prosecutor Hugo Holland pushed back, saying the photos were necessary to prove the murders occurred. Holland argued the case law is clear that the State “cannot be robbed of the moral force of its argument” and granting Cuccia’s request would “take all the meat off the bone” of his case.

Doggett eventually ruled the photos would remain in evidence, explaining she had put a lot of thought into the initial ruling of allowing them into evidence. She said it was not her job to limit the State on what she herself thinks is the minimum necessary evidence needed to prove their case.

Cuccia also brought up concerns about a drone video that he said hovered over the bodies of White and Horn for about 45 seconds at the Old Boyce Road scene, which he said was “very graphic” and “becomes redundant” with the allowance of the photographs. Doggett said she would rule on that video if it came up at the trial.

The most debated motion concerned some comments Sonnier made to law enforcement about prior criminal acts blocked from the trial, Cuccia saying there was an understanding that evidence of other crimes or alleged crimes would not be allowed in. The State said Cuccia should have filed a motion a month ago on the matter, Holland saying it is “not my job to do his job.”

Doggett took a brief recess to research what the case law indicates is appropriate.

She ruled the four particular statements made to law enforcement about her criminal history be redacted before being introduced during the trial.

While Holland argued he would not be able to redact the statements from the transcript and edit the video in time for the trial, his co-counsel, Brian Mosley, said the prosecution would be ready to proceed with jury selection Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, the Defense offered to provide the State with timestamps for the statements in order to make it easier to redact the statements as ordered by the court.

Jury selection begins Aug. 9 at 9 a.m. at the Rapides Parish Courthouse.

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