The prosecution and defense rested their cases Thursday in the first-degree murder trial of Baton Rouge rap artist Torence “Lil Boosie’’ Hatch, setting the stage for the anonymous jury to hear closing arguments Friday and begin their deliberations.
Hatch’s attorneys, who vigorously cross-examined most of the state’s witnesses over the course of the trial, called no witnesses of their own.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said he is confident the state proved its case. Hatch’s attorneys said the state failed in that regard.
Lead prosecutor Dana Cummings rested the state’s case after calling 27 witnesses over six days, including her boss — Moore — on Thursday.
Ten minutes after the state rested its case, Hatch attorney Jason Williams stood up and stated, “Based upon the burden of proof lying with the state, the defense rests with the witnesses the state has put on.’’
Williams remained standing and added, “We’re ready to go judge’’ — meaning the defense was ready to begin presenting its closing argument.
Cummings then asked for a private conference at the bench with state District Judge Mike Erwin and Hatch’s attorneys, after which the judge said the state was not quite ready to proceed. Erwin inquired of the 12 jurors and two alternate jurors if they wanted to stay late and hear the closing arguments from both sides or go to their hotel early.
“This is a serious decision on our part,’’ a female juror said to the judge after indicating the panel wanted to hear the closing arguments Friday morning.
Erwin granted the jury’s request, saying closing arguments will begin at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
Hatch, 29, is accused of paying Michael “Marlo Mike’’ Louding to kill 35-year-old Terry Boyd, who was shot to death through a window while he sat on a sofa inside a Vermillion Drive home on Oct. 21, 2009.
Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty, meaning Hatch would be sentenced to life in prison if convicted as charged in the alleged murder-for-hire of Boyd.
Boyd’s sister, Rochelle Wagner, testified Thursday she knew of no problem between Hatch and her brother. Hatch is the father of Wagner’s 5-year-old daughter. Wagner said Hatch and her brother were not friends or enemies.
Louding, who is charged with first-degree murder in Boyd’s slaying and also faces murder charges in the killing of five other people, was 17 at the time of Boyd’s death and is not eligible for the death penalty because of his age. Louding is now 19.
Louding, who told Baton Rouge police detectives in a videotaped statement that Hatch paid him $2,800 to kill Boyd, testified Monday he only made that confession because Baton Rouge police detectives threatened him with the death penalty. Louding, who testified that he and Hatch had nothing to do with Boyd’s killing, also said the detectives threatened his family.
The detectives, Chris Johnson and Elvin Howard, testified they made no such threat.
First Assistant District Attorney Prem Burns told reporters the jury will have to consider Louding’s videotaped statement and his court testimony and make a credibility determination.
In his testimony Thursday, Moore addressed the death-penalty issue involving Louding, saying he spoke with Louding after Louding was interrogated by police on May 14, 2010. Moore said he told him he would not pursue the death penalty.
Moore, who described his conversation with Louding as “polite and very respectful,’’ said he was unaware of Louding’s age at the time when he made that promise to him. The district attorney acknowledged he made an “improper assumption’’ about Louding’s age.
“I think he (Moore) took it (the death penalty) off the table because it was on the table,’’ Williams said after court, sticking with his belief that detectives did tell Louding he faced the death penalty.
Williams also pressed Moore about the fact that up to eight hours of Louding’s interrogation was not recorded.
“The decision to record or not record is totally up to the detectives,’’ Moore testified, acknowledging that district attorneys across the state have different opinions about whether a suspect’s entire interrogation should be recorded or just his formal statement.
Asked after court why police would not tape the entirety of an interrogation, Hatch attorney Martin Regan stated, “There’s no honest answer to that. Period.’’
Moore also testified that Louding’s testimony earlier in the week caught him off guard. He said Louding had “cooperated all the way up until Monday.’’
Moore said his office’s deal with Louding called for him to receive a sentence of less than life in prison if he gave complete and truthful testimony to a grand jury and in all future court proceedings.
Louding testified before the grand jury on June 3, 2010, after which he and Hatch and others were indicted.
“Was the deal just for him to point the finger at Torence Hatch?’’ Williams asked Moore.
Moore replied it was for Louding to tell the truth.
“I have to decide what the truth is,’’ Moore added.
In the Hatch case, Williams said, the jury will decide what the truth is.
“Thank God for that,’’ Williams added.
Adrian Pittman, 38, of Baton Rouge, also is charged with first-degree murder in Boyd’s death.
Louding also is charged in five other killings over a 14-month span, beginning with the shooting death of local up-and-coming rapper Chris “Nussie” Jackson on Feb. 9, 2009, and ending with the double-murder of Charles Matthews and Darryl “Bleek” Milton on April 1, 2010.
Louding is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Jackson; Marcus Thomas on April 25, 2009; and Matthews and Milton. He also is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Michael Smith on Dec. 18, 2009.
Louding was 16 at the time of Jackson’s and Thomas’ deaths.
Hatch pleaded guilty in November to conspiring to smuggle drugs and other illegal contraband into Dixon Correctional Institute and the Louisiana State Penitentiary. He was sentenced to eight years in prison.