Couvillion convicted of manslaughter

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 18, 2004

By LEONARD GRAY – Managing Editor

HAHNVILLE – Another measure of justice for James Rogers was handed down Friday night, but for Rogers’ family, it was not enough.

“Nothing’s going to bring final closure for the Rogers family,” said prosecutor Julie Cullen, after a jury convicted Calvin Couvillion of manslaughter, facing a possible 40 years in prison.

Sentencing will be March 23 at 9 a.m., by 29th Judicial District Judge Robert Chaisson.

Couvillion, 23, had been on trial for second-degree murder and faced a potential life in prison. However, the jury decided unanimously on the lesser charge. “I’m very satisfied with this,” Cullen commented.

Rogers’ surviving family did not speak with reporters following the verdict.

After the verdict, Couvillion’s attorney, Randy Lewis of Luling, said, “I don’t agree with the verdict, but I did my job.”

During jury deliberations, Lewis reinterated testimony from medical witnesses that Rogers, 17, actually died of exposure following his being strangled by Brandon Stein dropped off an Interstate 310 overpass into the marsh adjoining Airline Drive on Mardi Gras night, 2002.

“More than likely, he died of exposure or succumbed to his injuries,” Lewis said, pointing to post-mortem lividity and indications that Rogers may have physically moved after his drop, according to Dr. Gerald Liuzza.

“He didn’t go with them to drop the body,” Lewis said. “He didn’t benefit at all.”

Couvillion’s father, Al, said during jury deliberations, “I’m standing behind my son a hundred percent, because he’s not guilty. Our whole thing is to show he’s not like Brandon Stein.”

After the verdict, he added, “We lost the case, we know, and we’re going to do everything we can to help our boy.”

The trial began Feb. 9, with opening statements and prosecution testimony starting the next day. Testimony concluded Feb. 12, with closing arguments. The jury received the case at 11:15 a.m. and returned its verdict at 6:32 p.m.

Rogers’ parents, sister and other relatives sat quietly throughout the trial. During the reading of the verdict, family members of both sides wept, as Couvillion looked bewildered.

Stein, 21, confessed during his own trial last March to killing Rogers, choking him to death on the night of Feb. 12, 2002. A jury took three and a half hours to decide he had specific intent and convicted Stein of second-degree murder, which has a mandatory life sentence.

Stein and his cousin, Timothy Prudhomme, 19, both of Reserve, along with Rogers, all went to Couvillion’s home in Paradis that night for a night of drugs and drinking.

Prudhomme testified he saw Stein grab Rogers in a headlock and then whip his belt around his neck, to drag him toward a bedroom, in an effort to keep Rogers from leaving the party. Instead of acting, Prudhomme stayed seated and watched television. He is charged at present of second-degree murder, but Cullen said she plans to reduce the charge to obstruction of justice.