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Jury finds Kayla Giles guilty of both second-degree murder and obstruction of justice

Sentencing set for March 28 at 1:30 p.m.
Kayla Giles
Kayla Giles(Source: Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office)
Published: Jan. 29, 2022 at 2:53 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 29, 2022 at 6:17 PM CST
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - A verdict has been reached in the Kayla Giles trial in Rapides Parish.

The jury has found Giles guilty of second-degree murder and obstruction of justice for the Sept. 8, 2018 deadly shooting of her estranged husband, Thomas Coutee, Jr., in an Alexandria Walmart parking lot during a custody exchange. The couple was meeting so that their daughter could attend a birthday party with Coutee, Jr.

Sentencing will be held on March 28 at 1:30 p.m.

Closing arguments began at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 29 in the Kayla Giles trial at the Rapides Parish Courthouse.

During closing arguments, the prosecution has an opportunity to argue twice, once in an introductory address to the jury and again in a rebuttal to the defense’s argument.

Let’s start with the Prosecution’s first address:

Assistant Attorney General Brooke Harris emphasized the preparedness of the defendant, Kayla Giles. One point repeated yesterday, was that Giles was dropping her kids off with someone she alleged to be an abuser she feared, a man who didn’t have custody of two of those children.

In that preparedness, Harris alleges Giles “could’ve really prepared more” on her ability to cry.

Harris emphasized the ongoing custody battle between Giles and Coutee, Jr., saying Coutee, Jr. was “a man sick and tired of abuse.”

Harris also highlighted Giles’ voice recorder, calling it “the most interesting piece of evidence.”

Harris said, “You see the real Kayla. Not the woman whose got her head down,” referencing Giles in the courtroom, “with no emotion, scribbling on a piece of paper for the past nine days.”

In closing, Harris asked the jury to “call (Giles’) bluff.”

Defense attorney George Higgins began his closing argument by addressing Harris’ preparedness point, saying, “Kayla, being ex-military, was prepared.”

Having her be ex-military, Higgins emphasized that Giles had PTSD, saying she “can’t help” being emotionless.

Higgins said that the prosecution’s case “is that she’s a bad case.” He told the jury, again, that all other crime evidence doesn’t matter, saying “that’s not good stuff, but it’s got nothing to do with why we’re here.”

Higgins waved away the obstruction of justice charge, holding that “she never did anything in this case to hide evidence.”

Higgins defended Giles’ saying that Coutee, Jr. was “obsessed” with her and “deeply cared” for Giles, which is why she moved from her “dream home” to a gated complex to with a code.

Higgins asked the jury to use their common sense alongside considering the law. He demonstrated with a stick how Coutee, Jr. was leaning into Giles’ vehicle, alleging the trajectory of a shot to his chest makes sense.

In closing, he said the “evidence is as clear as a bell,” emphasizing that if he were to shoot someone he “wouldn’t do it at high noon in the Walmart parking lot.”

Assistant Attorney General Joseph Lebeau opened his rebuttal, saying, “you cannot pre-plan self-defense,” holding to the prosecution’s case that Giles planned to kill Coutee, Jr., saying that though Louisiana doesn’t have pre-meditated murder statutes in the law, “that’s what this is.”

Lebeau emphasized that “this shooting was not reasonable. This shooting was not necessary. This shooting was not justifiable.” He said Coutee, Jr. opening the car door was not unlawful or forceable entry, and that deadly force in response was not “reasonable.”

To the PTSD claim, Lebeau emphasized that no doctor came to testify on Giles’ behalf to the severity of the condition, calling it a “red herring.”

Lebeau called Giles a “textbook narcissist and abuser,” saying that abused people don’t attack their abusers.

Lebeau said Giles set a trap for Coutee, Jr. during a custody exchange in which she used her kids as “another pawn in her manipulative game.” To the oldest daughter who testified in court earlier in the week, she testified that Coutee, Jr. “walked slowly to the car” and never lunged. She testified she never heard anything said.

To the obstruction of justice charge, Lebeau referenced and played back a phone call made by Giles, where she said “they’re not searching for it,” talking about the flower computer bag. He then went on to elaborate on the messages and search history recovered from Giles’ laptop and phone.

To the voice recorder presented as evidence, Lebeau emphasized that Giles had been bringing it to custody exchanges. But on the day of the shooting, she left it at home, bringing the gun instead. Lebeau claimed she did so because Giles would have proof of her luring Coutee, Jr. back to her car.

In closing, Lebeau called Giles a “sociopath,” saying, “I wouldn’t want to eat dinner with Kayla Giles, and I damn sure wouldn’t want to meet her in a Walmart parking lot.”

After the verdict was read, Coutee, Jr.’s parents both gave brief statements to the media ahead of a balloon release outside the courthouse after the verdict came in.

“I can tell you, God is good,” said Cathy Pearson, his mother, through tears. “My baby got the justice he deserved. She’ll never be able to hurt anybody else.”

Coutee, Jr.’s father had one brief message: “Happy birthday, Kayla.” Giles turned 35 on the day of the verdict.

Assistant Attorney General Joseph LeBeau also spoke to the media after.

“Today’s verdict, while resulting from a tragedy, hopefully brought justice and closure to Thomas Coutee, Jr.’s family,” he said. “This entire case was a collaborative effort from the Attorney General’s Office to the Alexandria Police Department, as well as the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office. Without each of them, it would not have been possible.”

LeBeau also thanked the entire prosecution team, including his co-counsel, Assistant Attorney General Brooke Harris.

Attorney General Jeff Landry released a statement about the guilty verdict in the Kayla Giles trial:

“Today, justice was served to Kayla Giles by a jury of her peers in Rapides Parish. I pray her conviction provides some healing and closure to the victim’s family.

This jury’s verdict is the culmination of an exceptional prosecution by my Assistant Attorneys General Joseph LeBeau and Brooke Harris; and an equally exceptional investigation by my Louisiana Bureau of Investigation, Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Alexandria Police Department. I’d also like to thank my Victim’s Assistance Coordinator for her work with the victim’s family.

My office and I remain committed to doing all we can to make Louisiana a safer place to live, work, worship, and raise families.”

Defense attorney George Higgins said Giles plans to appeal.

“I have always thought probably, because of the other crime evidence, things that were allowed into this case that she would probably be found guilty,” said Higgins. “I think there is a strong likelihood of this matter being overturned on appeal. There’s just no law about this Stand Your Ground, it’s relatively new. It’s the first in-vehicle Stand Your Ground case that we saw. So, it doesn’t surprise me at all. I thought the jury listened, the prosecution did a great job, the judge did a great job. This is just what we expected in a very long process.”

When asked if he will appeal the decision, Higgins replied, “I expect Ms. Giles will appeal her decision.”

PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE KAYLA GILES TRIAL:

Thomas Coutee, Jr.’s family released purple balloons outside of the courthouse following the verdict. We spoke briefly to his mother and father. His father had one message for Kayla Giles: “Happy Birthday.”

Cathy Pearson, Thomas Coutee, Jr.’s mother, spoke to us and The Town Talk about Kayla Giles’ guilty verdict ahead of the balloon release outside in her son’s memory:

Assistant Attorney General Joseph LeBeau and Assistant Attorney General Brooke Harris on the guilty verdict for Kayla Giles:

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