The Louisiana Supreme Court has reinstated Manuel’s death sentence, overturning the decision of Judge Jerome Winsberg.
Judge Winsberg found that Ronald Bodenheimer, the prosecutor in Manuel’s case, had concurrently signed up to represent the victim’s family in a life insurance case, and that success in Manuel’s prosecution helped net Bodenheimer’s firm $300,000 in the insurance case. Winsberg also found that Bodenheimer’s arguments in the criminal trial and insurance cases differed.
In overturning Judge Winsberg’s decision, the LA Supreme Court said that Bodenheimer’s arguments in the criminal and civil cases “were not diametrically opposed” and determined that there was no evidence linking Bodenheimer’s handling of Manuel’s prosecution to his personal financial interests in the life insurance case.
The vote was 6-1, with former New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu dissenting. Landrieu was appointed to the Ortiz case because Associate Justice Greg Guidry, a former Jefferson Parish judge, recused himself. Landrieu said that Winsberg, a “highly respected” retired district court judge in New Orleans who “has presided over many capital cases,” held “extensive hearings” before deciding to remove the death sentence. Landrieu went on to say that Bodenheimer had “a clear conflict of interest,” which the Supreme Court knew nothing about when upholding Manuel’s conviction and death sentence .
This terrible decision has left Manuel’s convictions and sentence intact and so he remains on death row at Angola.