Funds now available for expert witness
LAFAYETTE — The judicial wheels are turning again in the death penalty trial of accused child-killer Landon Broussard, whose road to a trial was blocked this year when state money for expert witnesses dried up.
Attorneys for Broussard told state District Judge Durwood Conque on Monday that the case’s second mitigation specialist, Stacey Farraro, received state money in early June to begin her role in the case, which involves looking deeply into Broussard’s past, researching appellate court decisions that could affect the case and lining up witnesses.
Conque learned in April that state money to help indigent defendants hire expert witnesses was unavailable and that Broussard’s first mitigation expert, Rebecca Kendig, quit after working 14 months on the case when funding dried up.
Clay LeJeune, one of Broussard’s attorneys, said Kendig let Broussard’s defense team know she wouldn’t return to the case. LeJeune said Ferraro would have to start from the beginning and could not use work already done by Kendig.
Broussard, 22, is being held at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, awaiting his trial in the killing of Julien Madera. A Lafayette Parish grand jury charged Broussard with first-degree murder in March 2013. Broussard also has been charged with raping Julien. A trial date on both offenses have not been set.
Julien was 3 when he died in November 2012. Police at the time said Julien was beaten severely over time before he died.
Broussard was in 15th District Court in Lafayette for his hearing Monday, his hands and feet bound as he listened attentively and said nothing.
Assistant District Attorney William Babin, who in the past has expressed his displeasure about the pace of Broussard’s proceedings, said he didn’t understand why the new mitigation specialist needed four months to learn the case.
“I don’t either. (But) If we don’t, then that will be subject to scrutiny on review” by an appellate court, Conque said.
“... At the rate we’re going, it’s going to be three or four years” before Broussard is brought to trial, Babin said.
Julien’s mother, Laura Smith, 24, pleaded guilty on the eve of her trial May 19 to cruelty to a juvenile, admitting she was guilty of doing nothing to stop the beatings and other abuses of her child. Smith faces up to 40 years in prison at hard labor. Her sentencing date has not been set, and she is expected to testify at Broussard’s trial.
LeJeune said the new mitigation specialist will give him updates on her progress. Conque set a status hearing for Sept. 22.
Louisiana puts $600,000 in a fund each year to help pay for expert witnesses in capital murder cases. The fund ran dry last year, Jean Faria, capital case coordinator for the Louisiana Public Defender Board, said in an April hearing.
She said the lack of funds affected many cases in Louisiana.