Witness: No funds for expert witness in Landon Broussard trial

Landon Broussard Show caption
Landon Broussard

Lawyers, judge spar in death penalty case

An administrator for the Louisiana Public Defender Board testified Monday there is no money available to fund expert witnesses needed to defend Landon Broussard, a Lafayette man accused of killing his girlfriend’s child. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

The capital case coordinator for the state board, Jean Faria, said there isn’t nearly enough money to pay experts for all of Louisiana’s poor defendants.

She said Broussard’s attorneys applied for funds to cover the cost of a mitigator, who has since quit the case after waiting to be paid.

She said the team would have to file more applications to get back in the funding line if it hopes to receive money that might become available in June.

Faria said she’s had to tell attorneys for other indigent defendants across Louisiana there is no money.

“We’ve had to tell people, ‘We can’t fund you now,’ ” Faria said.

Broussard, wearing an orange prison suit and bound at the wrists and ankles, attended the hearing Monday after being transported from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, where he resides. A trial date has not been set.

Before the hearing started, Broussard spoke to an elderly relative, who later refused to identify herself and declined a reporter’s invitation to comment. At times the woman cried, while Broussard, red-eyed, looked away or at the floor.

On Nov. 29, 2012, Broussard walked into his grandmother’s Kaliste Saloom Road home carrying Julien Madera’s naked, lifeless body.

Julien, who was the son of Broussard’s girlfriend, would have turned 4 years old two months later. Accused of beating the boy to death, Broussard was indicted in March 2013.

In April 2013, Assistant District Attorney Bill Babin alerted Judge Durwood Conque that prosecutors would seek the death penalty for Broussard.

Broussard’s public defenders have cited the lack of state funds available to pay for a mitigator, who coordinates witnesses in capital case, and expert witnesses who would testify in Broussard’s defense.

In December, Broussard’s defense team of Clay LeJeune, Elliott Brown and Kim Haynes told Conque they needed state Public Defender Board funds to proceed.

On Monday, LeJeune said Broussard’s legal team remained handcuffed because of the funding issue.

Conque laid some of the blame on Broussard’s attorneys, telling LeJeune, Hayes and Brown they had not been diligent enough in applying for funds from a defender board that awards those who sit at the front of the application queue.

“I think there are things you can do … to bring the case closer to trial readiness,” Conque said.

Faria said the state public defender board gets $33 million a year from Louisiana.

The state’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30. Most of the money is spread around to local public defender offices around the state.

A small portion, $600,000, is allotted to the board’s expert witness fund. The $600,000, which represents less than 2 percent, is an arbitrary figure set by the board to pay for expert witnesses in Louisiana’s 100 capital case defendants that emerge each year, she said.

Faria said she took over the capital case coordinator position in March 2013, and it didn’t take long to see there wasn’t enough money in the expert witness fund to last through the 2013-14 budget year.

She also said that instead of putting $600,000 in the capital case fund all at once, the board now allots $50,000 each month in a measure to stretch the dollars over a year.

Faria also said budget woes have forced her to reduce the hourly rates paid to experts.

Judge Conque told Broussard’s attorneys the burden is on them to work within the system.

“What I’m getting is you can’t blame the state,” Conque said.