ST. FRANCISVILLE — A state district judge refused to throw out an indictment Thursday against a teenager accused of first-degree murder in the throat-slashing death of an 8-year-old boy, but delayed the suspect’s trial because a key defense witness will not be available until December.
Until Thursday’s hearing, trial for Trevor Reese, 19, had been scheduled to begin Oct. 1 in the death of Jackson Attuso, of Clinton, who was killed on a bike and hiking path at The Bluffs on Thompson Creek subdivision on June 10, 2010.
Twentieth Judicial District Judge William G. Carmichael rejected defense attorney Lewis Unglesby’s motion to throw out the indictment, which Unglesby based on a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that a defendant who committed a crime as a juvenile cannot be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla and Assistant Attorney General Colin Clark opposed the motion.
Reese was 16 when the boy was killed. An earlier Supreme Court ruling barred states from executing defendants who committed murder when they were juveniles.
Because the state Legislature has not amended Louisiana’s first- and second-degree murder statutes to allow juvenile defendants the possibility of parole, there is no penalty for the crime to fit Reese’s situation if he were convicted, Unglesby said.
“There’s no such thing as a trial without a punishment,” he said, adding that Carmichael cannot act in place of the Legislature in sentencing Reese to life with the possibility of parole.
Clark said Unglesby always has argued that his clients are “cloaked with the presumption of innocence” at trial, but the defense attorney’s motion turns that “argument on its head.”
The assistant attorney general said in his answer to Unglesby’s motion that the constitutional issue “is not ripe” for litigation and that the Supreme Court decisions restrict only what sentence is applicable under the “cruel and unusual punishment” clause of the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment.
The rulings are about cruel and unusual punishments, not “cruel and unusual convictions,” Clark told the judge.
Unglesby had suggested waiting until the Legislature addresses the latest Supreme Court ruling, at which time he said D’Aquilla could obtain another indictment.
In a separate motion to delay the trial, Unglesby said a Baton Rouge psychologist who has examined Reese will not be available because of medical reasons. Unglesby said the psychologist’s testimony will be vital to his client’s defense.
Reese has pleaded “not guilty by reason of insanity.”
D’Aquilla protested the delay, saying the Oct. 1 trial date had been worked out through consultations with “six doctors” involved in evaluating Reese. The district attorney filed a letter regarding the psychologist’s medical situation into the record, but the judge ordered it sealed.
Carmichael said he was reluctant to delay the trial, noting that subpoenas have gone out to some 200 potential jurors to appear on Oct. 1, but he said he finds that the psychologist is a material witness.
The judge ordered Unglesby and D’Aquilla to consult with the psychiatrists and psychologists expected to testify to determine which of three possible trial dates is best: Jan. 22, Feb. 19 or March 18.
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