Bless me Father for I have sinned.
A Louisiana woman was found guilty of attempted murder after her confession to her pastor was used during her trial, the woman’s lawyer says — but a local judge wasn’t buying it.
Peggy Valentine, 44, was convicted by a jury on Monday of attempted first-degree attempted home Invasion (Battery) stemming from a May 2022 incident where she was found breaking into the home of her fiancé’s other girlfriend and stabbing the woman during a fight.
Valentine’s lawyer claimed she was visiting the other woman amicably, who had recently given birth to a child with Valentine’s fiancé.
“When she found out about the baby, she went to the house with a relative and brought the baby some clothing,” attorney David Belfield III said, according to WAFB. “In her mind, they’re still trying to work the relationship out.”
Prosecutors argued that Valentine had broken into the home and attacked the woman while she was sleeping in bed, according to WAFB, but her lawyer denies that theory.
“There was no sign of forced entry, no doors broken, no windows broken. Somebody had to open the door,” Belfield III said according to WAFB.
After the fight took place, Valentine called her pastor, a Major with the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, who said she should speak with investigators.
Valentine voluntarily spoke with deputies because she felt she had only defended herself, Belfield said, but requested to talk to the clergyman when she felt as if she was being interrogated.
“It was obvious they had interrogated Peggy for a moment. She was very, very distraught at the time. She stopped talking to him, shut down and demanded to speak to her pastor,” said Belfield.
Valentine opened up to her pastor while a sheriff’s deputy remained in the room, allegedly admitting she went to the home to catch her fiancé with the other woman.
Belfield argued to the judge that the conversation Valentine had with the pastor should be stricken from the record because of “pastor privilege,” and added he never made clear to Valentine that he was acting as a law enforcement official and not a religious leader.
“Are you working as a pastor or a deputy? He never once told her, ‘Peggy, you have to be careful in what you say because I’m working as a police officer. What you say will be used against you,’” said Belfield.
He then argued that the other deputy wasn’t supposed to be in the room during the conversation.
“You wouldn’t sit in the room while she was talking to her lawyer, then why would you sit in the room talking to her pastor?”
Belfield also argued there are three components to determine pastor privilege which is defined under “clergy privilege” in US courts.
“The communication must be made either as a formal act of religion or as a matter of conscience; (2) it must be made to a clergyman in his capacity as a spiritual advisor or to his assistant in his official capacity; and (3) the communication must be intended to be confidential)”
The judge ruled that because the other deputy was in the room, the conversation could not be categorized as confidential, and then allowed the jury to hear the confession multiple times.
“On first-degree murder you have to prove specific intent. She went over there to check if her man was there. There was no specific intent to murder,” argued Belfield. “If you can’t trust your pastor in this day and age, who can you trust?”
Valentine is being held at Ascension Parish Jail awaiting for pre-sentencing hearing on Dec. 30 and will be sentenced in Feb. 2024.