Conviction, death sentence overturned in murder of boy, 12
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana’s Supreme Court has overturned the first-degree murder conviction and death sentence of a man who prosecutors say lured a 12-year-old boy to his death in 2010 by sending text messages in which he pretended to be a teenage girl.
The court said Friday that Brian Douglas Horn’s rights were violated when his lawyer conceded at the 2014 first-degree murder trial that Horn killed Justin Bloxom in DeSoto Parish.
According to the court record, the defense lawyer suggested that jurors find Horn guilty of manslaughter or second-degree murder, neither of which carries a death sentence. Horn objected to this strategy, the court said.
The justices cited a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in another Louisiana case: a 6-3 ruling in favor of then-death row inmate Robert McCoy, who had repeatedly objected to his lawyer’s decision to concede that McCoy killed two people in 2008.
Louisiana Chief Justice Bernette Johnson wrote Friday’s unanimous state Supreme Court ruling, noting the McCoy case.
“While conceding guilt in the hope of avoiding a death sentence may be a reasonable strategic decision in some case, the decision to do so belongs to the defendant,” she wrote.
Prosecutors said Bloxom was lured away from a friend’s house on March 29, 2010, with text messages purportedly from a 14-year-old girl seeking a sexual encounter and saying she would send a taxi for him. In reality, prosecutors said, the messages were from the driver of the taxi, Horn. The boy’s body was found later in a shallow pool of water near a highway. A coroner said he had been smothered.
Friday’s ruling said the defense attorney conceded at trial that Horn killed Bloxom and that he molested or attempted to molest the boy. Horn disagreed with that strategy and made it known to the district judge before and during the trial, the ruling said.