SHREVEPORT, La. – A Shreveport man convicted two years ago of killing a Shreveport police officer wants his conviction and life sentence overturned.
Attorney Lee Harville represented Grover Cannon in his appeal Tuesday before a three-member panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal. Harville said Cannon’s Sixth Amendment right to control his defense was violated during his trial because his trial attorney went against his wishes.
Cannon was convicted in 2019 of the August 2015 shooting death of Officer Thomas LaValley as he responded to a disturbance call at Cannon’s home in the Queensborough neighborhood. He was shot six times.
A neighbor told the jury he saw Cannon run out of the house after the shots were fired.
Cannon did not want an acknowledgement he was at the house, but nor did he support a self-defense claim, Harville said.
He’s basing the appeal on a case styled McCoy v. Louisiana, where the plaintiff, Robert McCoy, argued that his attorney conceded his guilt without his permission. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed and said the Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant the right to choose the objective of his defense. The decision overturned McCoy’s triple murder conviction, and his case is still pending retrial in Bossier District Court.
Harville conceded during questioning by Judge James “Jimbo” Stephens that at no point did Cannon’s trial attorney, Dwight Doskey, admit Cannon’s guilt. In fact, when Cannon took the stand during the penalty phase of the trial, the questions asked of him by Doskey were prepared by Cannon.
Harville said Cannon was “forced” to write those questions. He based that on a hearing eight months prior to the trial where Doskey told the trial judge he was going to argue self-defense.
The trial judge erred in allowing that defense to go forward, Harville claimed.
“The judge never ordered them not to. They presented through the questioning of witnesses and evidence and arguments that would show in their opinion that Officer LaValley was the aggressor in this case and that Mr. Cannon or whoever the shooter was had to shoot in self-defense,” Harville said.
Judge Frances Pitman asked, “He wanted an alibi defense. Is that it?
Harville said Cannon wanted a defense that “honestly had no basis in reality.” Cannon didn’t want to argue self-defense because to do so would mean an admission he was at the house.
“I don’t think he settled on a realistic defense,” Harville said.
Caddo Parish Assistant District Attorney Tommy Johnson argued the facts of Cannon’s defense differ from the McCoy case. In McCoy, the defendant objected before, during and after his trial that his attorney went against his wishes. He also tried to fire his attorney two days before trial.
There were no objections on the record or by motion during Cannon’s trial, Johnson said.
Self-defense was one of the defense’s strategies. Cannon also talked about the shooting being the result of a law enforcement conspiracy against him, Johnson said.
The appellate panel accepted submission of the appeal. No time lime was given for a ruling, but it can typically take up to six months.
Cannon is serving a life sentence. The jury could not reach a unanimous decision on the death penalty sought by the state.