Attorney honored for appeal

Published 12:01 am Friday, December 7, 2007

FERRIDAY — Local attorney Derrick Carson was honored by a state group of his peers recently for his work as a public defender.

The Louisiana Public Defender’s Association and the Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers awarded Carson the Trustees of Freedom Gideon Award in recognition of his successful appeal of Ridgecrest resident Sherry Bailey’s vehicular homicide conviction in 2005.

“I was pretty surprised, and I didn’t actually find out I was going to receive the award until a short while before then,” Carson said.

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Carson is director of the public defender’s office — formerly the indigent defender’s board — for the Seventh Judicial Court, and is town attorney for the Town of Ferriday.

Carson’s appeal of Bailey’s conviction successfully argued that, though Bailey was intoxicated when her car rear-ended 79-year-old Lillie Ingram’s vehicle on U.S. 84 — which a coroner ruled caused a cervical spine fracture for Ingram — she was not at fault in Ingram’s death.

An autopsy was not performed on Ingram.

Carson took a parade of witnesses to the appeal, one of whom testified Ingram’s vehicle did not have any brake lights on, and another who said Ingram’s car was “precariously positioned,” stopped in the left lane of traffic.

“I understand what the state was trying to do, but even at trial I understood that there were serious problems with this case,” Carson said.

The appeal court ruled the state had not sufficiently proven Bailey actually played a part in Ingram’s death.

A lot of the witnesses Carson used in the appeal had actually been called by the state in the initial trial, he said.

“We went out and interviewed these people,” he said. “It was just a matter of the details.”

Carson has been practicing law since 1998, and joined the public defenders in 2000.

“Working with the public defenders poses the best opportunity to do the things I love, the opportunity to help people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to be helped,” he said.

“This gives me the opportunity to give back to the community and a segment of the community that is often overlooked and isn’t given a fair shake,” he said. “It’s what I wanted to do ever since I was in law school.”