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Eunice man convicted in wife's slaying loses appeal

St. Landry Parish Courthouse
Posted at 3:41 PM, Apr 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-18 16:41:22-04

The state Supreme Court has refused to hear a Eunice man's appeal of his murder conviction.

The court denied Robert Lee Heard Jr.'s writ; this follows the Third Circuit Court of Appeals' rejection of his appeal of his second conviction in the slaying of Demetra L. Doyle.

Doyle was stabbed and burned in September 2012. Her husband, Heard, was convicted of murder in 2017, but by a 10-2 vote. After a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that unanimous verdicts were required for murder convictions, Heard appealed and was granted a new trial.

He got that trial in April 2022, and was convicted of second-degree murder again - this time, by a unanimous jury.

Prosecutors said the couple had been married only four months when Heard stabbed Doyle more than 40 times and set her body on fire. Appeals Court documents indicate he claimed that, because she had planned to go to a friend's nightclub that night with a girlfriend, she either planned to leave him or was having an affair, both of which justified a manslaughter conviction instead of murder.

The Appeals Court disagreed, outlined the testimony of her friends, and rejected his argument.

"We find that the record contains sufficient evidence to support that a rational trier of fact, in this case the jury, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, could have found that Defendant did not prove by a preponderance of the evidence any mitigating factors, which would entitle him to a judgment/verdict of manslaughter," the Third Circuit's ruling states. "The jury obviously believed the testimony of Mr. Hardy, Ms. Strauss, and the other witnesses, and not the Defendant’s testimony, as to this issue and assigned error, and thus this being a credibility determination, and as such is not to be second-guessed by this court."

The Eunice Police Department investigated the crime, and Assistant District Attorney Don Richard prosecuted the case.