Port Arthur man opts for jury trial over shooting death plea; August jury trials canceled

Published 12:28 am Tuesday, August 10, 2021

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A Port Arthur man accused in a 2020 slaying rejected a plea bargain, which will move his case to a jury trial later this year.

This occurs as courtrooms are temporarily canceling jury trials for the month of August.

The Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office offered Darian Petry a plea bargain of 45 years for a guilty please in the Aug. 16, 2020, shooting death of Kenneth Swallow.

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Defense attorney Tom Kelley said he believes there are a number of issues in the case that point to his client’s innocence.

“One of the detectives involved in the investigation interviewed Mr. Petry at the jail recently without me being present,” Kelley said. “That’s something we need to get to the bottom of.”

Petry rejected the plea earlier this month in the 252nd Court, where Judge Raquel West presides.

An individual in West’s court said via phone Petry’s charge is a first-degree felony. She also confirmed the cancellation of jury trials in the court.

A first-degree felony is punishable by a term of five to 99 years in jail.

Kelley said the new trial date is Nov. 29.

The shooting

Port Arthur police responded to an unresponsive person call at 10:32 p.m. Aug. 16, 2020, and found Swallow on the front porch of a home in the 3100 block of 10th Street with multiple gunshot wounds. He was later pronounced dead.

Approximately nine hours after Swallow was killed, Petry arrived at the police station to make a statement, according to authorities.

The courtrooms

According to Leanne Winfrey, office manager with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, all jury trials are canceled for the month of August. This includes family court jury trials, as well.

The grand jury will not met this week but will meet again the week of Aug. 16.