LOCAL

Gailes convicted in Mardi Gras slaying after mistrial overturned

Staff report
Akeem O. Gailes

PLAQUEMINE – A 12-member jury found Akeem O. Gailes guilty on counts of manslaughter and felon in possession of a firearm on Friday, according to District Attorney Ricky Ward.

Gailes, 27, 24505 Earl Drive, Apt. 20, Plaquemine, was arrested Feb. 29, 2012 for the murder of Dwayne Smith during a Mardi Gras parade in Plaquemine Feb. 12, 2012.

The trail, which was interrupted on the first day of testimony when the defendant attempted to escape during a lunch break, lasted three days. The jury deliberated 90 minutes before reaching their decision.

Gales was recaptured approximately 20 minutes later under a house two blocks from the courthouse.

Following the attempted escape, the defendant's attorney Michael Parks, of the Indigent Defender's Office, asked for a mistrial, which Judge William Dupont granted despite opposition from Assistant District Attorney Tony Clayton, chief felony prosecutor.

"The defendant should not be allowed to cause his own mistrial," Clayton said.

The defense's request for mistrial was based on the jury possibly hearing commotion in the hallway following the escape.

"This mistrial would have ended the trail and forced us to have to start the entire process over," Ward said.

The DA's office took an emergency writ to the First Circuit Court of Appeal that ruled "the trail court abused it discretion in granting the motion for mistrial."

"It is obvious that to afford a defendant such relief, based on his own conduct, is to give him a tool by which he can effectively prevent forever a final determination of his quilt," the First Circuit Court of Appeal said. "Such a result cannot be tolerated if our system of justice is to survive."

The Louisiana Supreme Court denied the defense's challenge of the ruling.

Dupont resumed the trial after being ordered to do so by the Court of Appeal and Gailes was found guilty.

Gailes is scheduled for sentencing June 27 at 1 p.m.

Manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 40 years, while the firearm possession count by a convicted felon has a 20-year maximum sentence.

"I am recommending the maximum sentence allowed by low on both convictions," Ward said.