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Friday, October 22, 2010

Nugent jurors hear audio interview in first day of Taser trial in Winnfield

October 22, 2010
Billy Gunn, The Town Talk

WINNFIELD -- After he was shocked for an eighth and final time, Barron "Scooter" Pikes didn't scream in pain anymore, the former police officer accused of killing Pikes said in a taped interview with investigators.

Former Winnfield Police Officer Scott Nugent said he and another officer then helped Pikes out of a police car and into the police station, sat him down in a chair and listened as Pikes told them he had asthma, was on PCP and crack cocaine, and that they'd be sorry for his death.

"He kept falling out of his chair," Nugent said on the recording to State Police investigator Chad Gremillion and others in a Jan. 31, 2008, interview. "He said we were going to regret what we did to him."

The audio recording was played Thursday to a jury of 12, along with two alternates, in the first day of the manslaughter trial of Nugent, 24, who is accused of using a Taser to shock Pikes multiple times before the drug suspect was pronounced dead at a local hospital in January 2008.

Nugent and two other officers were trying to arrest Pikes, who was wanted on an outstanding felony drug warrant. Nugent shocked the resisting Pikes, who attorneys said knew he was going to prison, multiple times after he was handcuffed to get him into a police car.

Nugent also told State Police that he recorded a video of Pikes at the police station. The use of the video as evidence was opposed by Nugent's attorneys, who last week asked Judge John Joyce to suppress it. Joyce has not ruled on the motion, though jurors heard about its existence on Thursday.

The case has generated some racial tensions in Winnfield, a town of about 5,700, which was evident in the eight days it took to seat a jury.

Winn Parish District Attorney Chris Nevils at one point asked Judge Joyce to move the trial to another locale, citing the difficulty in finding black jurors who hadn't formed hardened opinions.

The jury, seated Wednesday, is composed of one black male, one black female, two white males and the rest white females. Both alternates are white females.

Both Nevils and one of Nugent's attorneys, Jerry Glas, said race was not a factor in Pikes' death. Pikes was black. Nugent is white.

In opening statements, Glas blasted some media accounts of Jan. 17, 2008, that Pikes might have been dead before the last two shocks were administered, a claim disputed by witnesses.

Glas said the way Nugent used the Taser on Pikes -- administering "drive stuns," where the Taser itself is pressed against the skin and probes are not stuck into the skin -- threw out the possibility that shocking Pikes caused cardiac arrest.

Glas also said Nugent's actions when the ambulance arrived -- Nugent drove the vehicle so the two paramedics could work to try to save Pikes -- showed the former officer was concerned.

But Nevils had a different take on Jan. 17, 2008, saying Pikes "died at the hands of this man, Scott Nugent."

Pikes "did nothing more than say he didn't want to go to jail," Nevils said. The DA also said Nugent used a Taser on Pikes nine times instead of eight.

"We're going to show you "» that the force used in the case was unreasonable, unwarranted and unnecessary," Nevils told the jury.

Among the witnesses the state will call are a cardiologist; a forensic pathologist; and a doctor who performs autopsies -- Michael Baden, a nationally renowned doctor who had a show on HBO, "Autopsy."

Glas mocked the credibility of Baden, who he said "never met a camera he didn't like," and said a more credible account of Pikes' death is a report by Youngsville forensic pathologist Dr. Joel Carney.

In a report dated March 10, 2008, Carney ruled that the cause of Pikes' death was inconclusive. Carney wrote that sickle cell trait and an enlarged heart could have contributed to the death of the 21-year-old, 6-foot-tall, 247-pound man.

The report also did not show any PCP or cocaine in Pikes' body.

The trial continues today in the Winn Parish Courthouse.

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