By Bonnie Culverhouse
The possibility of a misunderstanding among prospective jurors is likely what caused the postponement of the second-degree murder trial of Logan Harmon Smith Tuesday.
Some local media reported Wednesday that Bossier-Webster District Attorney Schuyler Marvin said a dispute over whether a person claiming self-defense has the burden of proof in his defense led to a mistrial.
In fact, the reports claiming the mistrial, as well as the issue of self-defense were both incorrect, according to Assistant District Attorney Jimbo Yocom, who added media reports likely misinterpreted what Marvin said.
“You cannot declare a mistrial because the trial doesn’t start until opening statements begin,” he added. “It was not a mistrial but a continuance.”
In an effort to protect a defendant’s constitutional rights, the continuance was declared “so there is nothing that occurs during the trial that will make us have to come back and retry it in the future,” said Yocom, who represented the state in the case. “They (judges) make sure the accused has a fair day in court and nothing happens where we have mistakes made and have to try it again in the future.”
During voir dire (or jury selection) Tuesday, the issue of “heat of passion” manslaughter or “sudden provocation” was introduced during the questioning of the jurors.
“Before a trial, the state has no idea what the defense is going to be,” Yocom said. “And the defense doesn’t have to tell us. The state was explaining to the jurors what the defense might be, the mitigating factor, which is where the evidence shows the accused did the crime, but there’s a reason he did it – like in the heat of the moment where the accused is deprived of reasoning.”
Yocom said if Smith’s attorney decides to pursue that defense, then he or she is required to prove those facts exist.
“The law says I don’t have to disprove it occurred, they have to prove it did,” Yocom said. “But it isn’t like the state’s burden of proof – they just have to present evidence that (heat of passion or sudden provocation) occurred.”
During jury selection, the state reportedly presented this possible line of defense to the potential jurors and, due to the wording of the presentation, the judge reportedly felt the jurors could be confused about who bears the burden of proof.
“Of course, the state has the high burden of proof,” Yocom explained. “And he (judge) felt that in the interest of justice, it was best we reschedule until October to get a whole new pack of potential jurors and ensure there was understanding of the burden issue.”
By Bonnie Culverhouse
Jury selection is scheduled to begin today (Tuesday, August 9), in the shooting death of 37-year-old Anthony John Bruns of Springhill.
Monday’s courtroom was the scene of evidentiary arguments. If a jury is selected Tuesday or Wednesday morning, the trial could start Wednesday afternoon.
Bruns reportedly was found on the side of Percy Burns Road, just south of Reynolds Street on Louisiana Hwy. 157 in June of 2020.
Webster Parish Sheriff’s investigators Phillip Krouse and Tommy Kemp Jr. worked the case and arrested Logan Harmon Smith, who was 21 at the time. Smith is from Taylor, Ark.
Bruns was allegedly killed in another location, and his body dumped at the site where Springhill Police were called. It was reportedly out of their jurisdiction, so Sheriff’s investigators were called to the scene.
In a 2020 story, KTAL news reported Smith confessed to shooting Bruns but did not disclose a motive, claiming he did not know the victim prior to the shooting. He was charged with second-degree murder.
Smith’s trial will be held at the Webster Parish Courthouse under presiding Judge Charles Smith. Assistant District Attorney Jimbo Yocom is the prosecutor and Attorney Mary Ellen Halterman of Shreveport, is defending Smith.
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