Jury Delivers Split Verdict in Trial of Ex-Deputies in 2022 Shooting Death

A Jefferson Parish jury found former deputy Issac Hughes guilty of negligent homicide in the 2022 shooting death of Daniel Vallee, acquitting co-defendant Johnathon Louis. Hughes faces up to five years in prison for the conviction.

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Nitish Verma
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Jury Delivers Split Verdict in Trial of Ex-Deputies in 2022 Shooting Death

Jury Delivers Split Verdict in Trial of Ex-Deputies in 2022 Shooting Death

A Jefferson Parish jury has reached a verdict in the trial of two former sheriff's deputies charged in the February 2022 shooting death of 34-year-old Daniel Vallee. After nearly six hours of deliberation on Wednesday, the jury found Issac Hughes guilty of negligent homicide, a lesser charge than the original manslaughter count, while acquitting Johnathon Louis on all charges.

Why this matters: This case highlights the ongoing concerns about excessive force used by law enforcement, particularly against people of color, and underscores the need for improved training andaccountability within law enforcement agencies. The verdict also raises questions about the role of body cameras in holding officers accountable for their actions.

The shooting occurred on February 16, 2022, in Marrero, Louisiana, when Hughes, 31, and Louis, 37, responded to a noise complaint at a known crack house. Body camera footage, a crucial piece of evidence in the five-day trial, showed an increasingly chaotic confrontation between theformer, deputyand Vallee, who was sitting in a parked SUV and refused orders to exit the vehicle.

The 15-minute encounter escalated when Vallee, who had his hands raised for most of the interaction, dropped them several times, prompting the deputies to draw their weapons. In the final 45 seconds, Vallee can be heard repeatedly saying,"Y'all trying to shoot me. Y'all trying to shoot me. "Moments later, Hughes opened fire immediately after Vallee accidentally honked the vehicle's horn, with the two deputies ultimately firing a total of 27 bullets. Vallee, who was unarmed, was struck seven times and died at the scene.

Prosecutors argued that the deputies' use of deadly force was not justified, as they did not face imminent danger from Vallee or the stationary vehicle. Assistant District Attorney Rachel Africk told jurors, "The punishment for non-compliance with a law enforcement officer is not death." She emphasized, "It must be a kill or be killed moment for it to be justifiable."

In contrast, defense attorneys asserted that Hughes and Louis acted in self-defense against a non-compliant suspect they perceived as a threat. Attorney John Fuller, representing Hughes, told the jury, "Self-defense is self-defense. It's not manslaughter. It's not negligent homicide. It's not guilty."

The incident marked the first deputy-involved shooting captured on body camera since the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office implemented the technology in December 2021, just two months prior. While the case has drawn attention due to ongoing concerns about excessive force used by law enforcement, particularly against people of color, both Hughes and Louis are Black, and Vallee was White.

With the jury'sverdictnow delivered, Issac Hughes faces up to five years in prison for the negligent homicide conviction. His sentencing is scheduled for June 11, 2024. The case underscores the critical importance of law enforcement training and the need for officers to carefully assess whether a suspect poses a genuine threat before resorting to deadly force. As Assistant District Attorney Douglas Rushton stated in his closing argument,"We can and should expect officers who carry the badge to uphold the law."