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Fifth Circuit Grants Habeas Writ in Love Triangle Murder Case

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on June 30, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The story of Princess LaCaze is no fairy tale. To start with, she is no princess. Rather, she is an inmate in Louisiana, in jail for the murder of her husband.

But she didn’t commit the murder, although she was complicit. And in cutting a plea deal, the actual killer testified against her. When the full nature of his plea bargain was kept under wraps by the prosecution, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals was called in to decide whether there were any violations for failure to disclose Brady material.

Quick Facts:

Princess LaCaze was having an extra-marital affair with Meryland Robinson. Robinson went over to LaCaze's house and shot LaCaze's husband, killing him.

LaCaze herself was not home at the time but admitted that she knew about the planned murder in advance, saying that it was her husband's wish to be killed rather than to go on dialysis, which he was to begin shortly.

At first, Robinson denied that LaCaze took part but eventually, he implicated her in the murder. Both parties were indicted in January 1998 for second degree murder.

Robinson took a plea agreement and testified against LaCaze. Throughout his testimony, the prosecution focused on his credibility, pushing the fact that he was nevertheless receiving a forty year sentence and had no real incentive to lie on the stand.

What they failed to disclose was the other side of the plea deal-- that his son, who was fourteen at the time of the crime, would get off on the accomplice charges for driving his father to the scene of the crime.

LaCaze filed a habeas writ with the district court and was denied. She appealed.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals then addressed two issues: (1) Whether there was a withholding of Brady material by the State concerning the plea-deal and (2) whether the trial court unconstitutional denied LaCaze an impartial jury.

The Holding:

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the disclosure of the plea agreement would have produced a different result in the outcome of the case. As a result, the Court held that LaCaze's Brady violations claim was valid.

The case was reversed and remanded, with instructions to grant her writ of habeas corpus.

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