On May 21, 2006, five people were shot and killed that fateful day. It was the State’s theory that Anthony Bell was the aggressor, someone abusive and violent towards his wife who, in a fit of rage by her rejection, shot and killed four people at the church and then later killing his wife elsewhere. The primary witness for the prosecution was Claudia Brown. In her 911 call, she stated Anthony was the shooter. At the hospital when receiving treatment for her gunshot wound, she claimed it was Anthony who shot everyone. Eighteen months later she would inform prosecutors at the District Attorney’s Office that she could not recall the sequence of events of the shooting nor seeing Anthony shoot a gun. [CLICK HERE, to read file document]. At trial she testified that she did not see Anthony shoot anyone.

The State’s only other witness to the church shooting was a 6 year old child (name being withheld). In a controlled setting five days after the church shooting, the child was interviewed by trained investigators with some coaching. The child stated “they” (the family) were in church when the shooting took place. In her statements, she informed investigators they were reading the Bible and everybody in church was singing when “he” (Erica’s husband) walked out and got his gun from the car. She described the gun as black. She further stated that Erica’s husband forced the children and Erica into the car. According to the child, Erica’s husband shot Erica outside of the car and then took her to the apartment complex and shot her again. The child also admitted to seeing this on TV. [CLICK HERE, to read child interview report]

As mentioned elsewhere on this site, Anthony felt it was necessary to represent himself at trial. [CLICK HERE, to read transcript]. Prosecutors took advantage of this unfortunate situation. In fact, it was not until the day of trial that State prosecutors provided Anthony with “11th Hour Discovery” of its intent to offer into evidence the testimony of this child witness. Under Louisiana law, criminal prosecutors were required to disclose this evidence and give notice of witness statements at least 30 days in advance of trial. In this case, this information was not provided until moments before the child was to testify. It should also be noted that the trial judge refused to allow Anthony any time to study this “11th Hour Discovery” before the child took the witness box.

A review of the child’s testimony, of what was seen or not seen, of what was heard or not heard, does not offer much insight into what happened that fatal day. However, although the child’s trial testimony was consistent with interviewed statements, it conflicted with Claudia Brown’s testimony. To be sure, it was shameful that State prosecutors would call this brave young child to testify and endure the unnecessary ordeal of having to relive the church shooting; especially when considering the child testified to looking out a church window to see Anthony shoot Erica outside the car, then placed her body in the car, and drove away.

Part of the prosecutor’s theory of this case was that Anthony beat his wife. However, a review of their marital relationship history reveals that Erica Bell was the agressor. In fact, after the incident of Erica attempting to push Anthony out of a moving vehicle, when Anthony struck her, Erica would later file a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against Anthony using the injury to her eye as a basis. Her written statement in the TRO reveals that an argument between her and Anthony started over something “stupid” (her words); as to why people called him by his “last” name. Apparently, Erica had called Anthony’s place of employment earlier that day and was placed on hold by another female employee. She would then overhear the female calling Anthony by his last name “Bell”. In her T.R.O., she also admitted to pushing Anthony out of the vehicle while he was driving. As a reaction, Anthony hit her in the eye causing it to blacken. [**CLICK HERE, to see copy of actual TRO.]. To be sure, Erica would violate that order causing the T.R.O. to be dismissed 18 days later.

In the end, Anthony’s trial showcased the the very worse of our criminal justice system. His case is unique, insofar as an indigent defendant without any legal training, Anthony was allowed to represent himself. He was then denied funds to obtain his own investigators or experts for his defense against the prosecution’s case. The trial judge even failed to evaluate Anthony’s claims that his court appointed attorneys were not assisting him or providng him with information; forcing Anthony to represent himself. [CLICK HERE, to read pretrial transcript]. In fact, during the subsequent years of investigations into his case, and petitioning reviewing courts to reverse his conviction/sentence, newly uncovered and highly disturbing facts clearly demonstrate that Anthony’s trial was a travesty of justice. Ultimately, it boils down to a single quintessential truth: allowing Anthony to be condemned to die, in light of the official record as it now exists, would be an affront to, and make a mockery of, our criminal justice system. It cannot be said Anthony received a fair trial.