DWI case postponed 14 times in wake of fatal wreck

After 3.5 years, victim’s friends fear that a suspected drunken driver could walk free
Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 9:43 PM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — Mike Humphrey’s life came to an end when his pickup was struck by a truck being driven by a suspected drunken driver in Shreveport.

“Its premeditated murder in my eyes," Terri Stuckey said, referring to the man accused of taking her friend’s life in the wreck April 5, 2017, on North Market Street.

Investigators collected a body of evidence the night of the accident and arrested 66-year-old L.C. Hearne. But that case has stalled since Hearne was indicted 3.5 years ago on a charge of vehicular manslaughter.

“There’s really not even been a step toward any closure," Ronnie Stuckey said.

“L.C. Hearne chose to drink and get behind the wheel. So he chose to kill Mike,” Terri Stuckey said. “And to this day, he’s not served over five hours in jail. He was bailed out before the sun came up.”

According to a sheriff’s report, Hearne allegedly admitted to drinking before the deadly accident. His blood-alcohol content tested above the legal limit, at .115%, that same report shows. And surveillance cameras from a nearby restaurant captured the deadly wreck on tape.

Despite all the evidence, the Caddo district attorney’s office is doing little to prosecute Hearne.

In fact, court records show prosecutors have agreed to postpone the case for arguments and hearings 14 times.

“There’s no closure for nobody really right now at this point, the way they keep dragging it out," said Danny Nelan, Mike Humphrey’s best friend.

A request for public records shows the Caddo district attorney’s office has charged 16 other people with vehicular homicide since 2014. Eleven of those cases ended with defendants pleading guilty, on average, just 17 months after their arrest. And in four of the five active cases, prosecutors set 2020 trial dates.

But more than three years into the Hearne case, the DA hasn’t asked the judge for a trial date. So the longer the case drags out, the more Mike Humphrey’s friends say they worry that Hearne won’t go to jail.

“I feel like they just keep dragging their feet to postpone it,” Terri Stuckey said. "And I feel like it’s going to be wiped off the books.”

Mike Humphrey’s friends also fear the district attorney eventually will dismiss the case because lawyers representing Hearne are major political donors to Caddo District Attorney James Stewart.

“There is no doubt money plays a huge issue in what can be accomplished," Ronnie Stuckey said.

According to campaign finance reports, the lawyers defending Hearne contributed more than $30,000 to Stewart’s campaigns over the past five years.

Stewart declined multiple interview requests for this story, with a spokesperson saying by e-mail “we will not comment on an open, active case.”

That response is basically the same one given by Hearne and his family when asked about the case outside the Caddo Courthouse in January.

“Why does he get to walk away and go home to his family every night?” Terri Stuckey said. “He should have to pay for what he took.”

Frustrated, Mike Humphrey’s friends say all they can do now is pray and hope that one day Hearne pays for the wreck that took their friend.

“We miss him every single day,” Terri Stuckey said. "Because of the decisions somebody else made. And if it wasn’t Mike, it was going to be somebody else. But it was our Mike or Mike.”

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