The lawyer for Peggy Valentine, 44, argued that her conversation with her pastor shouldn't have been admissible in court
A Louisiana woman was convicted this week of attempted murder after she confessed to her pastor, who was also a major with the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office
Peggy Valentine, 44, was also found guilty of home invasion in connection with the early morning box cutter attack on her fiancé's girlfriend’s mother. Prosecutors said Valentine forced her way into the home in the pre-dawn hours of May, 4, 2022 and attacked the woman while she was sleeping, WAFB reported.
Valentine’s attorney David Belfield tells PEOPLE that she went to the home to catch her fiancé “in a lie” when the situation escalated into a tragedy.
According to Belfield, the fiancé's girlfriend, whose mother was attacked, recently gave birth to Valentine's fiancé's child.
“She didn't go over there with the intention to murder or kill anybody,” says Belfield. “No doors were broken in. No locks were tampered with. No windows were broken. None of that. She was just there to catch [her fiancé] in the lie.”
After the incident, Valentine reached out to her pastor, the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office Major, who recommended she speak to investigators.
Belfield says Valentine voluntarily spoke to a sheriff’s deputy but at a certain point, she “decides she doesn't want to talk to him anymore.” Subsequently, she demanded to talk with the pastor.
It was during her talk with her pastor, while another officer was in the room, that she admitted that she went to the home to confront her fiancé. The situation, says Belfield, "got out of hand."
The conversation between them was played during the trial, according to Belfield.
Belfield says he argued before the trial that the conversation should not be admissible because of pastoral privilege, but the judge disagreed.
“We argued that's a penitent conversation,” he says. “It is just like a lawyer/client conversation. It ought to be protected by the law.”
Louisiana has a three-pronged test for pastoral privilege, he says. “The third prong of the test is that the conversation has to be confidential,” he says. “That's the prong that the Court ruled against us on. [The judge] said that [Valentine] had no reasonable expectation of privacy because she was talking to her pastor with that other person sitting at the table.”
The district attorney’s office for Ascension Parish couldn’t be reached for comment.
Valentine is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 27.
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