Murder case returned to district court

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 13, 2002


LAPLACE – A death row case involving a St. John the Baptist Parish resident was recently returned to district court for reconsideration, due to questions as to whether he is retarded.

Garyville resident James Dunn, according the Louisiana Supreme Court, had his conviction for first-degree murder upheld on Nov. 1. However, a new legal definition of retardation will be applied to see if he qualifys for the death penalty.

Dunn was convicted for shooting Jackie Blanchard, of Plattenville, and Lisa Dupuis, of Pierre Part, during the armed robbery of the Napoleonville branch of Iberville Savings & Trust Bank on June 4, 1998.

This was the first death-penalty case in Assumption Parish since 1948, 23rd Judicial District Attorney Anthony Falterman said.

Dunn was joined in the crime by Anthony Scott and Kendall Breaux, both 19. All three are from Little Hope Street in Garyville.

Dunn was also one of three people who ambushed and gunned down Lt. Sherman Ray Walker of the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office outside his home in Garyville on Nov. 6, 1984. In that case, Dunn pled guilty in August 1985 to manslaughter and received a 22-year sentence. He was released on good behavior in 1995.

The 1998 bank robbery and murder case began when, at 11:45 a.m. on June 4, the three entered the bank, located on Louisiana Highway 1. When it was all over, two tellers were mortally wounded. According to prosecutors, Scott first shot Blanchard in the head with a .41-caliber Magnum firing .38-caliber slugs.

Then, prosecutors added, Dunn shot Dupuis three times and delivered a killing shot to Blanchard. Dunn’s attorney, Robert Pastor, argued in court that Dunn did not do the shooting.

An Assumption Parish sheriff’s deputy responding to a silent alarm from the bank arrived in time to spot the fleeing vehicle containing Dunn, Scott and Breaux. He began a chase while broadcasting a description of the rented, forest-green 1988 Pontiac Sunbird.

Roadblocks were set up in their path at Louisiana Highways 3127 and 20, near Donaldsonville, as it appeared the trio were headed for the Sunshine Bridge. They stopped at the roadblock but, when asked for identification, they sped away.

One mile down the road, at 1 p.m., the car was struck by a Union Pacific train. Breaux was pinned in the vehicle and apprehended. Dunn and Scott ran into a nearby sugarcane field near C.F. Industries and were quickly caught.

Inside the vehicle, the robbery loot and the bank’s security camera containing the robbery caught on videotape were recovered.

Falterman explained during the trial the camera displayed a series of still photographs, taken every 15 seconds, which recorded the crime.

The district attorney added, though, that it showed Dunn gunning down the two tellers.

Afterward, the robbers splashed gasoline around inside the bank, in an attempt to burn it down and further conceal evidence. However, the gasoline failed to ignite.

A landmark U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year banned the execution of mentally retarded convicts.

The recently released majority opinion of the Louisiana Supreme Court, in this case, mandated a new review of the penalty phase and “for a hearing in conformity with this opinion to determine whether or not the defendant is mentally retarded.”

However, as part of the opinion, Associated Justice John Weimer wrote: “It would be a perversion of our criminal justice system if those who are not mentally retarded could escape the full consequences of their acts by merely claiming to be mentally retarded.”