Teen pleads not guilty to fatal Feb. 2 shooting at Jockey Lot

The 15-year-old facing an adult murder charge in the early February killing of a flea market employee told a judge via video Tuesday he isn’t guilty, then was returned to a nonadult section of the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center.

A grand jury indicted Earl Joseph III on a first-degree murder in the Feb. 2 killing of Michael Patin, 49, an employee of the Jockey Lot, who was shot in the back in the flea market’s parking lot.

Jockey Lot is off Interstate 49 near Carencro in north Lafayette Parish.

Although Joseph is charged with first-degree murder and will be tried as an adult, it is not a case in which he could be sentenced to death if he’s convicted.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 ruled states could not put to death an offender found guilty of murder that occurred prior to the offender turning 18 years of age.

District Attorney Michael Harson said Tuesday be believes the trial could take place within a relatively short period.

“It’s not a capital case,” Harson said. “… I would think that inside a year, or up to a year, we have a legitimate chance of bringing it to trial.”

If found guilty, Joseph would be entitled to a sentencing hearing and could escape a sentence of life without the chance of parole.

In Louisiana, adults convicted of noncapital, first-degree murder are automatically sentenced to life without parole.

However, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year, convicts who are 17 or younger when they commit murder are granted a sentencing hearing that takes into account factors including the environment in which they were raised.

Patin, of Arnaudville, was killed on a Sunday night.

According to the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office, deputies and officers from Lafayette and Carencro were en route to Jockey Lot to investigate a call about a theft. Before deputies arrived, the boys crashed the vehicle they had arrived in and tried to hide.

Deputies used police dogs to locate four boys hiding in and around the business. Deputies did not find Joseph, who had been with the group.

Investigators believe officers left the business at 11:05 p.m. with the four juveniles. Seven minutes later Joseph, who apparently eluded the dogs, shot Patin in the back, sheriff’s Capt. Kip Judice said in the days after the crime.

Following interviews with the group of boys, police were able to identify Joseph and arrest him at his home early Feb. 3.

Joseph’s court-appointed attorney, Jane Hogan, has requested investigators’ notes, videos and recordings of the interviews with the juveniles who were at the Jockey Lot on Feb. 2, including those of Joseph, according to documents filed Monday.