Lavergne files paper pleadings claiming abuse at penitentiary
LAFAYETTE — In voluminous court documents filed at the Lafayette Parish Courthouse, convicted killer Brandon Scott Lavergne rails against the people and the system he blames for where he is now, serving two life sentences in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.
Lavergne, who is acting as his own attorney, has been in Angola since pleading guilty in August to the 2012 murder of Michaela “Mickey” Shunick, of Lafayette, and the 1999 murder of Lisa Pate, also of Lafayette. He pleaded guilty after prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty.
In the latest document filed by Lavergne on March 1, he wrote that he would protest his plight by staging a hunger strike starting on March 3.
Lavergne started eating again on March 7, said Pam Laborde, communications director for the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, said in an email Monday.
A sampling of Lavergne’s writings reveals that he also has asked a judge to void his guilty pleas and alleged errors and misdeeds by prosecutors and his court-appointed attorneys.
“The petitioner (Lavergne) is horrified at this witchhunt and sham called his due process,” Lavergne wrote on Feb. 28 on page 4 of a five-page motion.
Lavergne also says prosecutors and police leaked information to the media that hurt his case. “There was a media fire storm surrounding the Shunick case even before the arrest of the petitioner (Lavergne),” he wrote.
Lavernge also claims the state is withholding from him life-saving medical equipment for his sleep apnea and that Angola Warden Burl Cain placed him in solitary confinement against his wishes and without a reason.
Laborde said Lavergne’s solitary confinement status is “a non-punitive cell block environment” that was “determined by Angola staff to be the most suitable at the current time to ensure his safety and the safety of staff and other offenders.”
Laborde said Lavergne’s stay in the solitary-cell wing of the prison in West Feliciana Parish could end, depending on staff reviews.
Cain did not respond to requests for an interview, which Laborde said was standard because Lavergne has made legal complaints about his lodgings.
In court documents, Lavergne refers to himself in the third person and uses the language of attorneys. He uses words like “prayer” and addresses “this honorable court” with documents filed “pro se,” a legal term for a layman doing his own legal work.
Lavergne even writes about what may have been his strategy early on in the investigation, but he says prosecutors and his own attorneys took away that strategy.
“The state committed numerous constitutional violations to break the petitioners (sic) will to continue to invoke the 5th Amendment, and then later force a plea,” Lavergne wrote in Page 5 of the 10-page affidavit he filed Jan. 13.
A call left with one of Lavergne’s attorneys, Clay Lejeune of Eunice, seeking comment was not returned Monday.
Lafayette Parish District Attorney Mike Harson on Monday said in an email that Lavergne’s prolific output of legal documents is not unusual.
“He, like other similarly situated prisoners, have large amounts of time to think about their predicament and conjure up all kinds of alleged ‘wrongs’ that were done to them,” Harson said.
Later in the Jan. 13 affidavit, Lavergne wrote that he told a psychologist that “even though he (Lavergne) felt he deserved jail time for the things that he did do, that he did not murder Lisa Pate or M. “Mickey” Shunick and didn’t deserve life.”
A California psychologist also said Monday that Lavergne’s actions are not considered unusual.
“It seems like there’s a certain group who hang on to the idea that they were wrongly convicted,” said Dr. Martin Williams of San Jose, Calif., who evaluates defendants seeking an insanity defense in criminal cases, and who formerly worked for the California Board of Parole Hearings.
Williams conceded that he knew few details about Lavergne. But in general, “there are some inmates who do actual crimes and believe the system is plotting against them,” Williams said.
“The other possibility is severe mental illness and paranoid delusions, and in a moment of clarity maybe he confesses to the crime he did, and then he goes back into his delusional world where everybody’s plotting against him,” Williams said.