Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday in Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope’s felony trial on charges that he used his position and public money for political purposes, and that he lied about it while under oath.
The proceedings began on Monday with a number of arguments before 15th Judicial District Judge David Smith.
Smith ruled that a jury will be allowed to see the entirety of Pope’s nearly three-hour deposition in a public-records lawsuit — a video that shows Pope making statements under oath and that led to the two perjury charges lodged against him.
Smith also declined to allow Pope’s attorneys to tell jurors about “jury nullification,” a process through which jurors can decide not to convict a defendant because that they disagree with the law.
Brett Grayson, one of two attorneys who represent Pope, said he wanted jurors to know “that they are aware they have the power.”
Alan Haney, the assistant district attorney prosecuting the case, said that “it’s improper to ask the jurors to violate their oath” to consider the law as written.
Smith said he agreed with Haney.
Pope’s attorneys also had subpoenaed District Attorney Keith Stutes to testify in the case, but that motion was withdrawn in chambers without public argument.
Attorneys for both the state and defense have been under a gag order and have been unable to comment on this case for months. The order came into play when Pope’s attorneys first raised concerns that continuous local news coverage of Pope’s case could taint jurors.
That argument is central to a change-of-venue motion that remains pending. Smith said Monday that the request will be considered if it looks like there will be issue seating an impartial jury.
Pope’s trial on two counts of perjury and five counts of malfeasance comes less than two weeks after a grand jury handed up another seven-felony indictment against him on allegations he illegally took more than $13,000 meant for his public office.
The payments laid out in Pope’s most recent indictment line up with garnishment fee payouts Pope’s received this year since January, when an Attorney General opinion stated that the marshal should not use the garnishment fees his office collects to supplement his income.
If convicted of any of the felonies, state law requires that Pope be removed from his elected position. But that penalty would only take effect once he’s exhausted all of his appeal options.
Each count of perjury is punishable by a fine up to $10,000 and up to five years hard labor.
Malfeasance in office is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000; a sentence of up to five years in prison, with or without hard labor; and restitution to the state “if the state suffered a loss as a result of the offense.”
The law further provides that if Pope is convicted of malfeasance, he would lose certification from the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, or P.O.S.T. certification.
Pope’s first term in office expires at the end of 2020.