Innocence Project New Orleans working to overturn 2010 murder conviction

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NEW ORLEANS, LA. — October 20, 2007 forever changed the lives of two men in New Orleans.

27-year-old Jason Anderson was shot and killed on the 8700 block of Gervais St. in New Orleans East. Kaleigh Smith was arrested, charged and eventually convicted of second degree murder in 2010. Smith’s case was recently picked up by the Innocence Project New Orleans, who are committed to setting him free.

“There is DNA evidence showing he’s not guilty and there is evidence that the prosecutors were secretly giving financial benefits to their most important witness,” said one of Smith’s attorneys, Richard Davis.

Davis says the witness in this case recanted her statement naming Smith as the perpetrator twice, most recently in 2018. One thing Davis says she maintains is that the suspect grabbed Anderson’s shirt before the shooting.

“That grabbing would transfer small amounts of epithelial DNA from the perpetrator’s hands to the victim’s t-shirt. There is a second man’s DNA on the t-shirt and it is not Mr. Smith’s DNA,” said Davis.

As for those alleged “secret payments”, Davis says he and his team discovered the Orleans District Attorney’s Office paid for the witness’s rent on multiple occasions, totaling $4,500, which he says was not disclosed in court.

“They first paid her rent in the spring of 2008, which was just before she testified at a pre-trial hearing. They then stopped paying her rent. She became very reluctant to testify. Right before she testified, she was told they would get her what she needed and then immediately after, they made arrangements to pay her rent again,” said Davis.

Ten out of 12 jurors voted to convict Smith, but his lawyers argue his conviction should be overturned because it was not unanimous; a practice that was ruled unconstitutional for life sentences this year.

Davis made a filing on Monday and it’s unclear when the District Attorney’s office will respond.

We reached out to Anderson’s family and the District Attorney’s office and have not heard back.

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