Barton sentence gets reversed by Third Circuit Court of Appeals
By: Jim Butler
CROWLEY – The conviction and 25-year prison sentence of accused sex offender Lance Barton has been reversed by the Third Circuit Court of Appeal.
Barton, sentenced in December 2010 after his July conviction on a charge of molesting a 10-year-old girl in 2005 and of oral sexual battery, was denied the opportunity question the girl about inconsistencies in what she told authorities.
Consequently, the court ruled this month, because the case record fails to show potentially exculpatory evidence was furnished to Barton, his convictions must be reversed, and the case remanded for a new trial.
Barton’s alleged victim was 15 when she testified at his July trial.
One of Barton’s victims from an earlier case also testified, describing actions by her molester that tracked those described by the current victim.
Barton has a history of sexual offenses. Previous convictions include aggravated crimes against nature (1984 in Alexandria), indecent behavior with a juvenile (1990 in Baton Rouge) and oral sexual battery (1995 in Livingston Parish).
During the trial, one of Barton’s fellow inmates sent a letter to the District Attorney’s office, stating that Barton had graphically described his crimes and that he was laughing at the District Attorney during his trial.
The inmate, who kept his name anonymous, claimed to be a father and called Barton a “menace to society”.
The case was presided over by Judge Glennon Everett.
Barton got 15 years on the molestation conviction and 10 on the second count.
Barton through his attorney appealed the convictions on the basis that the trial court erred by allowing the state to withhold exculpatory evidence from the DOC and OCS files, including evidence of inconsistent victim statements and denial of the crimes by the victim, and this withholding deprived Defendant of his right to present his defense.
“This court‘s review of the OCS record which was offered into evidence at the new trial hearing reveals both inculpatory and exculpatory evidence which should have been provided to Defendant in pretrial proceedings,” the circuit panel said.
It noted the OCS file includes, for instance, a report of an interview with a witness, the alleged victim’s aunt, which indicates she had asked the girls if Barton touched them in their private and they said no.
“Another report of an interview with (the victim’s grandmother), states, ‘(the grandmother) indicates she asked the girls if he touched them or did anything to them and they said no,” the court notes.
“These reports contain potentially exculpatory evidence to which defendant was entitled,” the court ruled.
“Had Defendant been given this information, he could have called OCS personnel as witnesses and questioned them about whether the girl had denied abuse by Defendant and possibly questioned her credibility. He could also have questioned her about whether she had ever spoken to her aunt and her grandmother about the abuse and/or denied the abuse,”
the judges said.
The proper remedy, they said, is a new trial for Barton, currently housed at Dixon Correctional Institute, Jackson, La.