- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 7, 2015

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A Louisiana appeals court has ordered New Orleans’ criminal court to redo the judge selection for two New Orleans co-defendants of former football player Darren Sharper who have been charged with rape.

The court’s method of assigning judges is unconstitutional because the district attorney can manipulate it, the full 4th Circuit Court of Appeal ruled in an opinion with two partial dissents.

District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said he will ask the Louisiana Supreme Court to overturn the decision in the case against Erik Nunez and former St. Bernard Parish sheriff’s deputy Brandon Licciardi.

“Not a single judge on the Fourth Circuit found the existence of any evidence that the DA’s office had actually manipulated the allotment process in this case. As such, I find it difficult for the defendants to argue that they suffered any actual prejudice,” said his statement, emailed Tuesday.

Sharper has pleaded guilty to three rapes in Louisiana. Nunez is accused of participating in two rapes; Licciardi is charged in a third rape and with three counts of human trafficking and one of battery. The co-defendants’ charges don’t overlap, the appeals court noted.

The majority ruling said judges could not find any Louisiana Supreme Court decision that says defendants must prove that a prosecutor gamed the system to find that the method violates court rules requiring random allotment of judges.

The ruling also did not indicate whether the judge originally named to the case could be named to it under a new procedure.

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