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Kenner man, 65, sentenced to 40 years in prison for killing neighbor
A Kenner man whose 1975 murder conviction was commuted by former Gov. Edwin Edwards, pleaded guilty Monday to an unrelated killing and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Roy Garland, 65, who was awaiting his trial on a charge of second-degree murder, pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter in the April 11, 2011, death of his neighbor, Willie Hall.
With convincing evidence linking him to the crime, Garland admitted he shot Hall, 42, in a wooded area off Curtis Avenue, near Louis Armstrong International Airport. Garland, a convicted felon, also admitted he knew he was barred from having guns because of his conviction in a 2001 narcotics case.
"He did not want to put the victim's family through the emotions of the trial," his attorney Tanya Faia, who defended the case with Tommy Calogero, said of Garland's decision to plead guilty.
As he lay dying, Hall called 911, reporting that "Roy" shot him three times, and that he had taken the gun from his attacker, according to the Kenner Police Department. Hall also described the clothing Garland wore, according to police.
Officers found Hall in the wooded area, near a drainage ditch and railroad tracks. He had in his hand the cell phone used to call 911. The officers also found a .38-caliber revolver nearby. Later, a detective saw Garland walking east on Airline Drive, attempting to flag down passing cars, police said.
Garland wore clothing that matched what Hall described in his dying words to the 911 operator, police said. He was barefooted, and his lower legs were covered in mud. Police later found a sandal stuck in the muddy drainage ditch near Hall's body.
Garland's shirt also had blood on it. DNA tests confirmed earlier this year that it was Hall's blood. Last week, Garland's attorneys sought a mental evaluation to determine whether he was fit for trial. The doctors concluded that Garland was, in fact, mentally competent to stand trial.
Faia said that following his arrest four years ago, he told police he was defending himself when he shot Hall, Faia said. Garland also told police he knew he shouldn't have had a gun because of his felony conviction. That, made the case "a classic felony-manslaughter," Faia said.
"The DA's office agreed with us," she said of the plea agreement the defense reached with Assistant District Attorney Jeff Hufft.
In accepting the plea, Judge Ellen Kovach of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Garland to the maximum 40 years in prison for manslaughter and 20 years for felon in possession of a firearm. She ran the sentences concurrent.
Garland was convicted in 1975 of killing Thomas Burns, 38, outside his Kenner home. He was sentenced to life in prison, but he served only 13 years of that punishment because of Edwards' intervention. Authorities have said that Garland also has a prosthetic eye, the result of a shotgun blast to the face in 1991.