Defense seeks safer conditions for teen accused in flea market killing

The teen boy jailed in the killing of a flea market employee runs the risk of being raped and beaten if he remains with older inmates at the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center, Earl Joseph III’s attorney said in a court request to send the 15-year-old back to juvenile jail.

Attorney Michael J. Hall in court documents also asks Judge Patrick Michot to greatly reduce Joseph’s $1 million bail.

Michot is expected to address both requests at a hearing July 17.

In a motion filed last week, Hall claimed Joseph is constitutionally entitled to be jailed with others his age in the parish’s Lafayette Juvenile Detention Center.

Instead, Joseph is being held on the fifth floor of the downtown Lafayette Parish jail for adults. He’s kept away from the jail’s general population of older inmates, but he lives with inmates up to 17 years old who are bigger and stronger and pose a threat to him.

Hall said the older inmates are taking advantage of Joseph.

Prosecutors on Monday had not responded to Hall’s motion.

“Joseph is, by far, the youngest inmate on his wing and one of the smallest,” Hall said. “The conflicts arose because the other inmates in Joseph’s wing were attacking him physically and trying to take advantage of him. … The inmates are physically violent and have tried to make sexual advances with Joseph.”

Lafayette Parish Corrections Director Rob Reardon said Monday night that he will check with jail supervisors Tuesday about the claims of violence made in Joseph’s motion.

Reardon said none of his subordinates reported any trouble in the youthful offender section of the jail. He said he didn’t know if Joseph’s claim he tried to kill himself has any validity.

“Virtually every day we have someone who says he wants to kill himself,” Reardon said.

Joseph is accused of shooting to death Jockey Lot employee Michael Patin, whom Joseph did not know, on Feb. 2, just three days after Joseph turned 15. Police said at the time that Patin, of Arnaudville, confronted Joseph about an attempted vehicle theft before the teen shot Patin in the back.

Joseph was charged as an adult in a Feb. 5 indictment with first-degree murder.

After he was indicted, Joseph was taken from the parish’s juvenile lockup and placed in the Correctional Center’s youthful offender section. Reardon said Monday that Joseph remained in the youthful offender facilities, located on the fifth floor of the downtown jail.

Hall said the inmates locked up with Joseph are youthful in age only. He claimed the 17-year-olds continue to pose a threat to Joseph, who not that long ago was an M.P. Moss Middle School student with a learning disability.

So far, Hall said, Joseph has had five fights with some of the eight other inmates in the youthful offender wing.

Joseph also attempted suicide on Feb. 15, which prompted a stay in a mental health facility, Hall said.

By being forced to live and deal with older inmates, Hall claims, Joseph is being subjected to punishment inflicted on someone who has been convicted of murder. He said Joseph’s incarceration circumstances are a violation of the 14th Amendment’s due process provisions.

Hall also cites sections in the Prison Rape Elimination Act, a 2003 federal law enacted to reduce the number of rapes inside state and federal prisons. One of the provisions of PREA, Hall wrote, is that young offenders must be incarcerated away from adults.

“Although Joseph is housed in the ‘juvenile wing,’ the other inmates are technically adults for the purpose of state criminal jurisdiction,” Hall wrote.

In his motion to reduce Joseph’s bail from the current $1 million, Hall said Joseph’s family has limited financial resources and Joseph himself has none.

He also said Joseph is no threat to the community if the bond is reduced to a level his family can meet.

“Albeit this crime is a serious, unfortunate (event) that has occurred, (Joseph) would not pose a danger to the community or to any person if he is released,” Hall said, “as he would remain with his family who has been supportive throughout this process.”

Hall, of New Orleans, and Roxell Richard, of Houston, in April replaced the three court-appointed attorneys assigned to Joseph’s case. Hall and Richard were retained by Joseph’s mother and stepfather.

No trial date has been set.