After fatally punching parish jail inmate, Press Shorter gets 70-year sentence

A Jefferson Parish judge on Monday (Nov. 14) sentenced Press Shorter III to 70 years in prison in finding he is a two-time felon under Louisiana’s habitual offender law.

Shorter’s most recent was conviction was for manslaughter. Shorter, 30, of Harvey, caused the death of Brian Alexander while they were Jefferson Parish Correctional Center inmates.

On Sept. 4, 2018, both men were in line to shower when Shorter struck Alexander three to four times in his head. Alexander fell backwards, his head striking the floor.

Shorter has a history of committing batteries on others. He twice struck two fellow inmates, breaking each man’s jaw bones, and he has struck corrections officers and deputies. “He has a record of being extremely violent, even when he’s incarcerated,” Assistant District Attorney Joan Benge argued in court.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office investigators initially believed that Alexander had fallen, and the incident was treated as a medical roll. Doctors at University Medical Center, however, concluded that Alexander’s injuries were not consistent with a fall.

Alexander was kept on life support until his family could arrive at the hospital. Knowing that he would not survive, the family authorized his removal from life support. Alexander, 49, of Loranger, later died. He was in the correctional center awaiting trial for a first-degree robbery charge when Shorter attacked him.

During the subsequent investigation, Sheriff’s Office investigators determined that Shorter had complained in phone conversations about being unable to shower. On the day in question, Alexander was ahead of Shorter in the line to shower. And within 1 ½ hours of striking Alexander, Shorter was on the phone with his girlfriend, telling her he “knocked” Alexander “clean out.”

The autopsy showed that in addition to wounds to his face and head, Alexander’s skull was fractured, and his brain was swollen. Blunt force trauma caused his death, which was classified as a homicide.

A Jefferson Parish jury on Feb. 16 unanimously convicted Shorter as charged of manslaughter. After denying post-verdict defense motions to overturn the conviction, and after hearing impact testimony from Alexander’s ex-wife, 24th Judicial District Judge Danyelle Taylor on March 1 sentenced Shorter to 40 years in prison, the maximum for manslaughter.

She then ran that sentence consecutive to the 20 years she gave Shorter in January after he pleaded guilty to illegal firearms possession, resisting arrest by for or violence and narcotics offences – charges for which he was confined to the correctional center when he struck Alexander.

That meant Shorter was serving a 60-year sentence, at hard labor.

On Monday, Judge Taylor found that Shorter is a double offender, considering his conviction of a second-degree battery he committed in 2013. That and the manslaughter are crimes of violence. Judge Taylor vacated the 40-year sentence she gave Shorter for the manslaughter and resentenced him to 50 years as a double offender, bringing his total punishment to 70 years without benefit of probation or suspension of sentence.

Assistant District Attorney Joan Benge prosecuted the case.