NEW ORLEANS, LA (KSLA) - A man convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death will now get a new trial. The Louisiana Supreme Court overturned the conviction and sentence for Brian Douglas Horn Friday.
Horn was convicted in April 2014 of kidnapping and murdering 12-year-old Justin Bloxom in March 2010. Horn was formally sentenced to death in May 2014 by DeSoto Parish District Judge Robert Burgess.
Prosecutors said Horn posed as a 15-year-old girl to entice Bloxom via text to meet up with him for sex. The boy’s body was found in a wooded area off Highway 171 on March 31, 2010.
In the ruling, the court cited a recent U.S. Supreme Court case McCoy v. Louisiana, overturning a death penalty conviction in Bossier Parish, because defense lawyers infringed their client’s Sixth Amendment right to effective counsel, by admitting their client committed murder and seeking leniency from the jury, when their client objected to the strategy of admitting guilt.
Similar to that case, Horn told his lawyers he did not want to concede guilt and admit killing Bloxom at trial. He even filed motions objecting to the legal strategy when his lawyers nonetheless admitted guilt, asking the jury to spare Horn’s life and not sentence him to death.
Saying that lawyers erred when they ignored his wishes and violated Horn’s rights, the Louisiana Supreme Court tossed the conviction out, sending the case back to trial court in DeSoto Parish.
J. Florence is a criminal defense attorney, and worked on Horn’s legal team back in 2014. He says prosecutors will now have to decide whether to dismiss the case, or start all over and retry Horn.
“You literally start over. There’s a determination of a trial date, motions filed, negotiations would occur if that’s possible,” Florence said. “And if it gets to a trial point, the state has the choice to decide if they are going to continue on the lines of capitol or regular first, or second degree murder without the death penalty.”
Gary Evans, the District Attorney in DeSoto, did not prosecute the original case, but in a statement told KSLA news that Horn would remain incarcerated while his office determines how to proceed in the case.
“He is alone the perpetrator of a particularly heinous crime,” Evans wrote in the statement referring to Horn. “I pledge to continually work to bring Brian Horn to the justice he deserves for committing the senseless murder of Justin Bloxom, an innocent 12 year old boy.”