19th Judicial District Judge Eboni Johnson Rose
19th Judicial District Judge Eboni Johnson Rose

Judge Eboni Johnson Rose accused of ‘destroying’ polling slips in recent trial

BATON ROUGE — Key documents in a case recently decided by the Louisiana Supreme Court were “destroyed” and last seen on the desk of the presiding judge, according to documents reviewed by Unfiltered with Kiran

In April 2024, the Louisiana Supreme Court overturned a ruling by Judge Eboni Johnson Rose, where the jury flipped from a “not guilty” to “guilty” verdict after speaking with Rose behind closed doors. The judge ended the trial after the initial “not guilty” verdict but re-opened court for a “guilty” decision. The Supreme Court ruled that was improper procedure and upheld the initial “not guilty” verdict.

DiGerolamo was accused of aggravated assault with a firearm when she pointed a gun at a group driving down her street that she argued with during a rainstorm. DiGerolamo claimed she pulled her gun to defend herself and her family after the other party pulled a gun on her. But, the those in the car said they were the ones threatened. 

19th Judicial District Judge Eboni Johnson Rose
19th Judicial District Judge Eboni Johnson Rose

A trio of defense attorneys at the Longman Jakuback firm representing DiGerolamo wrote that key documents that could give insight into what jurors found, and when, were allegedly removed.

“It is undisputable that the polling slips were handed to the jury,” they wrote. “It is likewise undisputable that they were last in the presence of the court.”

READ MORE: Supreme Court reverses ruling by Judge Eboni Rose | ‘I’m ready to live my life’

Rose and her staff did not immediately return a request for comment. Diana Gibbens, judicial administrator for the 19th Judicial District Court, wrote in an email that they were aware of UWK’s inquiry.

“Let me look into this for you,” Gibbens wrote. “As soon as I have more information, I will let you know.”

Polling slips are utilized in court cases to allow each juror to mark down their decision. They determine if someone is guilty or not guilty on some or all of the charges in a case. Those polling slips were available in March 2023.

‘The polling slips were destroyed’

The East Baton Rouge Clerk of Court allegedly told defense attorneys that there are not any physical copies of the polling slips. Emily White, minute clerk supervisor, said the judge said not to hold onto them because no polling was completed.

“…the Court had advised that the polling slips were destroyed as no polling was completed in the matter and nothing had been filled out by the jury,” White allegedly told defense attorneys. 

Court administrative staff did not immediately return a request for comment.

A snippet of the court filing from defense attorneys that filed a motion for Judge Eboni Johnson Rose's recusal.
A snippet of the court filing from defense attorneys that filed a motion for Judge Eboni Johnson Rose’s recusal.

Mary Jane Marcantel, a paralegal at the law firm defending DiGerolamo, alleged in an email included as an attachment in court documents that the polling slips were last seen in Rose’s possession.

“Donny (Caldera) called me to tell me that the documents were found,” Marcantel wrote. “He said that she (judge) kept them knowing that this was going to be an issue and she wanted to have them for quick access.”

Donny Caldera is the supervisor of the criminal records department within the clerk of court department. Representatives from the clerk of court did not immediately return a request for comment.

Mary Jane Marcantel wrote in an email attached to a pleading that she could not get the polling slips but they were last seen on the judge's desk.
Mary Jane Marcantel wrote in an email attached to a pleading that she could not get the polling slips but they were last seen on the judge’s desk.

‘Then there’s no guessing as to what happened in that back room’

Judge William Morvant was a state district court judge on the 19th Judicial District Court in East Baton Rouge Parish for 24 years. He also served as the chief justice for the 19th JDC. Morvant told UWK he never used written polling slips. Instead, he would ask each juror what their verdict was to be included in the official transcript. 

“There’s no chance you’re going to lose a slip because it’s in the record,” Morvant said.

Morvant said asking for their verdict assures jurors are not confused by paperwork and promotes transparency. 

“If they stated it on the record, ‘Yes, that’s my verdict’ after you ask each one each the question, then there’s no guessing as to what happened in that back room,” he said.

Article 812 of Louisiana law specifies the method for polling slips. A 2009 version of the law allowed the court to do either oral or written procedure. As of 2023, the practice “shall be done in open court” and each juror should write their decision on paper alongside their signature. They should then be available.

“The clerk shall collect the slips of paper, make them available for inspection by the court and counsel, and record the results,” the law said.

Morvant said he would not discuss the allegations in this case. “I’m not going to comment on what another judge does, you know, in their particular practice,” he said.

The transcript of the court proceedings showed that the jury had filled out multiple rounds of polling slips. 

The court transcript showed one of the moments Judge Eboni Johnson Rose approved the distribution of polling slips to the jury.
The court transcript showed one of the moments Judge Eboni Johnson Rose approved the distribution of polling slips to the jury.

At the end of the trial, the court transcript showed the presentation of the jury’s findings was confusing because of mismatched paperwork (below). Judge Rose said the jury found her “not guilty” initially but switched their verdict after a closed door meeting with the judge.

The court transcript showed the moment that the judge called the jury back into the courtroom in the Bridgette DiGerolamo case. The jury then gave a “guilty” verdict — which differs from the “not guilty” verdict moments prior.

The attorneys called for Rose to recuse herself in any further aspects of DiGerolamo’s case. Records show that request was approved. 

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