A woman convicted of killing her ex-husband and her boyfriend will remain in prison after the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal tossed out a judge’s ruling after he “abused his power” in setting bond while the woman contested her conviction.
Meshell Hale, 55, was found guilty of second-degree murder of her boyfriend Damian Paul Skipper on Dec. 16, 2022, after a two-week bench trial in Baton Rouge conducted by 19th Judicial District Court Judge Raymond Bigelow.
Ahead of sentencing, Hale’s attorneys filed two motions, one for a new trial and another for a post-verdict judgment of acquittal.
Judge Bigelow denied both motions saying her guilt was overwhelming. She then was sentenced to life. After sentencing, her attorneys asked for a post-conviction bond, which is allowed by law, except in limited cases like death penalty cases.
After the guilty verdict, Bigelow sentenced Hall to a mandatory life term four days later. At sentencing, Bigelow granted Hale a $300,000 post-conviction bond.
In the recent ruling, three appeals court justices agreed that Bigelow abused his discretion. The judges vacated the initial ruling and sent the case back to the 19th JDC.
“There is significant difference between pre-trial detention and postconviction confinement,” the Dec. 29 order stated. “The defendant’s conviction removes the presumption of innocence. Nevertheless, in this case, the district court set the post-conviction bond in the same amount set for pre-trial bond with no indication that this significant factor was considered.”
Skipper was killed on June 30, 2015 from Barium poisoning. Barium is a metal and poisoning from it is uncommon but it can be life-threatening. That’s what happened not only in Skipper’s case, but also in Hale’s ex-husband’s case, Arthur Noflin Jr.
Skipper’s death initially was ruled natural and he was buried.
Then, in March 2016, Noflin’s remains were found in a truck set on fire in New Orleans. The cause of his death was unclassified because he was burned so badly. However, because of both men’s connection to Hale, Skipper’s body was exhumed and re-examined.
Hale was then indicted for the first-degree murder of her boyfriend. She never was charged with her ex-husband’s death.