Devaughn Staes guilty of manslaughter in New Orleans’ first Covid-era murder trial
September 16, 2020
For Immediate Release

Contact: Ken Daley, Public Information

District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office on Wednesday (Sept. 16) secured a manslaughter conviction against Devaughn Staes, the first of two defendants accused of second-degree murder in the October 2018 shooting death of a man slain in New Orleans’ Central Business District.

Staes, 21, was convicted of the lesser charge in a judge trial with Criminal District Court Judge Benedict Willard presiding. The defendant faces a prison term of up to 40 years when Willard imposes his sentence Oct. 8.

The three-day proceeding was the first murder trial held in Orleans Parish since the Covid-19 pandemic shut down most criminal court operations after the end of business on March 13. Criminal jury trials remain suspended in the parish.

Willard heard testimony in the trial starting Sept. 9-10 and concluding Sept. 16. He found Staes guilty of illegally killing 23-year-old Justin Jackson, who was shot to death in an alley in the 100 block of Carondelet Street, about a half-block from Canal Street, around 10:30 p.m. on Oct. 19, 2018.

Attorneys representing the state and the defendant appeared live in Willard’s courtroom for the trial, along with the New Orleans police detective who led the investigation into Jackson’s death. Staes waived his presence, and he and an Orleans Parish Coroner’s office pathologist participated in the trial via video conference technology.

“I commend Judge Willard and the attorneys and witnesses involved in this case for demonstrating that, under certain careful conditions, trials can be conducted safely,” Cannizzaro said. “As we continue to cope with the dangers and changes imposed upon our community by the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important that our backlogged criminal justice system re-start to the safest extent possible.”

Co-defendant Decarlo Carter, 23, was indicted along with Staes in February 2019. Carter is charged with second-degree murder, obstruction of justice, illegal possession of a concealed firearm and possession of a firearm in the presence of controlled dangerous substances.

Carter awaits his own trial date, but has been receiving mental health treatment since Willard declared him incompetent to stand trial in January 2020. A clinical psychologist testified about Carter’s progress at a hearing last month, and Willard is expected to rule Sept. 23 on whether the defendant’s competency has been sufficiently restored to proceed to trial.

Assistant District Attorneys Arthur Mitchell IV and Patrick Duffey prosecuted the case.