Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Vengeful Heart

Chaper One
Excerpt: 11

The State of Louisiana versus Richard J. Schmidt went to trial on Thursday, October 15, 1998.

District Attorney Keith Stutes  (The Advertiser)
District Attorney
Keith Stutes
(The Advertiser)
It was a tough case, says assistant district attorney Keith A. Stutes, the lead prosecutor, because it was a totally circumstantial case. The scientific evidence didnt prove he did it, or not. It really boiled down to the rest of that evidence.

That meant a conviction would require Richard Schmidts jury believe Janice Trahan and the circumstantial evidence against the defendant. Or 10 of the 12 jurors had to. In Louisiana, in non-capital cases, at least 10 jurors votes are required either to convict, or to acquit a defendant. Otherwise, the jury is hung and a mistrial must be declared.

It is yet another feature of Louisiana law that the prosecutions burden of proof is slightly different when the evidence is substantially circumstantial (as opposed to physical, such as a fingerprint, or eyewitness). Rather than needing to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the prosecution in circumstantial evidence cases must exclude every reasonable hypothesis of innocence.

In Janice Trahans case, that meant narrowing the possible sources of her double viral infections to Richard Schmidt.

On Day One of the trial, under questioning by Stutes, Trahan told her story for the first time in public. After she described how Schmidt repeatedly promised to leave his wife, Barbara, and then didnt, Stutes observed, This sounds like old news by now. Why did you continue this relationship? Why didnt you just break it off?

I ask myself that all the time, Trahan answered. I was weak. There were threats. I didnt have control over my own life.

According to Trahan, Schmidt said hed kill her and himself if she ever left him. He also threatened to post his erotic photos of her around the hospital, or to inform the University of Southwestern Louisiana, where shed taken her nursing degree, that hed helped her cheat on her course work.

Janice Trahan Allen with her husband, leaving court after her testimony (The Advertiser)
Janice Trahan Allen with her
husband, leaving court after her
testimony (The Advertiser)
When her love for Schmidt finally was overwhelmed by the barrage of lies and intimidations, said Trahan, she decided to leave him. She claimed even to have asked for Barbara Schmidts help in extricating herself from Richard. When at last she did, a final warning from him kept ringing in her mind.

If you leave me, he told her, Ill drive you to suicide, and Ill make sure that no man will want you.

 

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