LAFAYETTE — Brandon Scott Lavergne has asked a judge to keep secret court filings in his effort to void guilty pleas to two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Michaela “Mickey” Shunick and Lisa Pate.
Lavergne, 34, entered the pleas in August, just a few weeks after his arrest in the investigation of Shunick’s disappearance on May 19.
Shunick, a 21-year-old University of Louisiana at Lafayette student, disappeared while riding her bicycle home from downtown Lafayette.
The Shunick case revived an older investigation into Pate’s death in 1999.
Lavergne, from Lawtell in St. Landry Parish, admitted to killing both Lafayette women in a plea deal that spared him a possible death penalty, but in the months since, he has apparently had a change of heart.
Lavergne, who is now serving a life sentence in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, has been representing himself in his legal challenge to the guilty pleas.
On hand-written pages that were filed into court record Thursday, Lavergne argues that his court motions should not be open for public viewing until a judge rules on them, for fear that the media attention could hurt his chances for a fair trial.
“Petitioner has a reasonable expectation of discretion from the courts with at least the contents of his motions until after a ruling has been made either for or against his positions,” Lavergne wrote.
Outside of juvenile cases, filings in criminal cases are rarely sealed from public view.
Lavergne also asked for a “gag order” preventing the 15th Judicial District Attorney’s Office “and the state as a whole” from releasing any information about the case.
No ruling has been made on the request, which was filed with several other court motions asking for documents that detailed evidence against Lavergne and witnesses in the investigation.
Lavergne has alleged in court documents that he felt pressured to plead guilty because he faced a possible death penalty and believed his attempts at mounting a legal defense would have been frustrated by the extensive pretrial publicity.
District Attorney Mike Harson has said he feels confident the pleas are legally sound.
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