Statements not allowed in teen’s trial
Armstrong Desvallons’ taped retelling of how he hit and body slammed his 5-year-old sister while imitating wrestling moves in June, allegedly leading to her death hours later, will not be allowed as evidence at trial, Jefferson Parish Juvenile Court Judge Andrea Janzen ruled Wednesday.
Neither Desvallons, who was 13 at the time, nor his mother, a Haitian immigrant grieving the sudden loss of her daughter, really understood that the statements they gave the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office could be used against the teenager, Janzen concluded.
Janzen said that in addition to the language barrier, Allourdes Desvallons, the boy’s mother, “was in the most stressful situation a person can endure” after being told by a sheriff’s deputy that her daughter Viloude Louis’ death the day before was the result of blunt-force trauma and lacerated internal organs.
After initially telling investigators his sister had simply complained of a stomachache, Desvallons told them in two recorded statements — the first with his mother and stepfather present, the second without them — that he body-slammed her and hit her repeatedly with the back of his elbow in the bedroom of the family’s Terrytown apartment.
“She’s distraught and needs the answer to how her daughter died,” Janzen said, referring to Allourdes Desvallons on the first of two audio interrogation tapes played at a hearing last week.
Janzen said the woman’s dual relationship with the case — being the mother of both the victim and the suspect — is a unique circumstance to consider when weighing whether the recordings are admissible, as the prosecution insisted they should be.
Her compromised situation meant her son didn’t have meaningful parental consultation when considering his rights, and Janzen said she could only wonder whether the woman would have been able to act in her son’s best interest, given the circumstances.
Janzen also said the tape clearly showed the mother thought cooperating with the police was necessary to find out what happened to her daughter and wasn’t sufficiently informed that her son had become a suspect in what was no longer an unclassified death.
The deputy even referred to Viloude Louis’ death as “unclassified” even though he knew it was on its way to being a murder investigation, the judge said
Janzen said that the second tape, which was recorded after the deputy got permission from Viloude’s parents to talk to the boy alone while they discussed their daughter’s funeral arrangements, was particularly troubling.
In that session, the deputy was now joined by a captain and only made a reference to the previously initialed checklist in which the boy and his mother had waived his rights. Janzen said it was evident Armstrong Desvallons did not know he had the right to refuse to answer any questions.
With all of these factors on top of the boy’s young age and the fact that neither he nor his mother had any prior experience with law enforcement, Janzen threw out both of the taped interrogations.
Earlier in the hearing, however, Janzen sided with the prosecution, agreeing to allow testimony of an incident in which Desvallons choked Viloude after his stepfather whipped his leg with a belt for not taking out the garbage.
Vilger Louis, the girl’s father and Desvallons’ stepfather, testified he believes the boy’s only way to retaliate against him was to harm his sister.
Janzen rejected the defense’s claims that the two incidents were too different in nature to allow it.
Prosecutors said they will appeal Janzen’s ruling about the inadmissibility of the tapes to the Louisiana 5th Circuit Court of Appeal.
The trial is scheduled to begin next month.
If convicted of murder, Armstrong Desvallons would be sentenced to a juvenile detention facility until he is 21.