Pastor Errol Victor, Sr., who, on July 20, 2022 was convicted for a second time of murdering his 8-year-old stepson in 2008 (the first time was by a 10-2 verdict, and the U. S. Supreme Court vacated his conviction). [Photo courtesy of NOLA.com].
Long-time Sound Off Louisiana suscribers will recall our feature entailing just how much a 12-year-old ice cream bar has cost Louisiana taxpayers. From that feature:
We’ve had a few subscribers asking to be fully apprised of the Victor matter. Since we’ve now published several features in which LUI has openly advocated for his immediate release, it probably would be a good idea to provide a table with bullet-like statements of what all has transpired. Pre-2015 table entries are derived from this feature.
Date or General Timeline Event or Occurrence Sometime prior to April 1, 2008 Errol Victor Sr. marries a lady named Tonya. They essentially form a Brady Bunch on steroids family as he has seven (7) boys, Tonya has four (4) boys, and they subsequently have two (2) boys together, for a total of 13 children (all boys). April 1, 2008 M.L. Lloyd III, 8, is pronounced dead at River Parishes Hospital; Errol and Tonya Victor, his mother and stepfather and stepbrother, Errol Victor, Jr., are arrested later that day. April 15, 2008 Errol Victor Sr., 42, is indicted by a St. John the Baptist Parish grand jury on a charge of first-degree murder in death of M.L. Lloyd III. The boy’s mother, Tonya Victor, 33, and stepbrother, Errol Victor Jr., 24, were charged with accessory after the fact to first-degree murder. September, 2009 Errol and Tonya Victor indicted on second-degree murder charges. No charges filed against Errol Victor, Jr. October, 2009 St. John district attorney’s office recuses itself from the case because an assistant district attorney had represented Errol Victor in business ventures. February, 2010 Judge Madeline Jasmine voids the September 2009 indictment against the Victors because a St. John sheriff’s deputy on the grand jury wore a shirt that advertised his employment. April, 2010 Errol and Tonya Victor are re-indicted on second-degree murder charges in the case. August, 2010 Errol and Tonya Victor refused to enter a plea during an arraignment on second-degree murder charges. Errol Victor, shouting that he wanted to represent himself, was removed from the courtroom. August, 2010 Errol and Tonya Victor lose their bid to relocate their murder case from St. John Parish district court to federal court. The lawsuit alleged that the state is pursuing the “indictment solely because (the) defendants are African-Americans in St. John Parish” and that African-Americans are more likely to be treated unfairly, prosecuted and incarcerated in St. John than white defendants. U.S. District Judge Lance Africk said he found “no legitimate statutory basis” to remove the case from district court, stating precedent has shown that federal courts should not interfere with ongoing state court proceedings. October, 2010 Judge Mary Hotard Becnel agrees to allow Errol and Tonya Victor to use their right to self-representation. Over the couple’s objections, Becnel also appointed attorneys from the public defenders office to act as advisers. The Victors said they didn’t want the help because the attorneys didn’t agree with their strategy. August, 2011 Judge Mary Hotard Becnel issues a bench warrant for the arrest of Errol and Tonya Victor after the couple fails to show up for their second-degree murder trial. April, 2012 Errol and Tonya Victor are captured and arrested in Georgia after being featured on television show, “America’s Most Wanted.” July, 2012 Errol and Tonya Victor are extradited to Louisiana, booked in St. John Parish with jumping bail. August, 2014 Errol Victor found guilty of second-degree murder; Tonya Victor found guilty of manslaughter in the death of 8-year-old M.L. Lloyd III. September 14, 2014 Tonya (sentenced to 21 years – eligible for parole after serving 11), and Victor (sentenced to life in prison), go on a tirade at sentencing. November 6, 2018 Louisiana voters overwhelming approve requiring a unanimous jury for a felony conviction. Victor was sentenced to life in prison based on a 10-2 verdict. April 27, 2020 U. S. Supreme Court vacates Victor’s sentence based on the fact he was sentenced by a 10-2 jury verdict rather than 12-0. November 24, 2020 Victor makes a pro-se filing seeking to have his $1.5 million bond reduced, to be released based on not having been re-charged for the crime (alleged violation of right to a “quick and speedy” trial). Note: On page 17 of the linked 34-page document, the judge notates the fact that the $1.5 million bond had been vacated by the judge’s own motion and that, upon a subsequent hearing on the matter, bond was denied. December 23, 2020 LUI holds this “emergency press conference” fearing Victor may succumb to the Corona virus while being housed in the St. Charles Parish jail. December 29, 2020 Victor is taken on the junket outlined in this feature. LUI founder Belinda Parker-Brown sends this correspondence to the prison warden.
Well, since that January 3, 2021 feature, the cost of the ice cream bar has risen dramatically.
How? Well, as noted above, the U. S. Supreme Court, on April 27, 2020, vacated Victor’s conviction. Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office then moved forward with retrying the case. That retrial commenced on July 11, 2022, and Sound Off Louisiana founder Robert Burns attended the afternoon session of Wednesday, July 13, 2022 and Friday, July 15, 2022.
To Burns’ shock on Wednesday, a jury still had not been seated when he showed up (jury selection was expected to have been completed the previous day). Ten of the 12 jurors had been seated; however, the court literally ran out of jurors in the pool the prior day.
So what happened? As the court explained, there is a little-known Louisiana statute that states that, when the court runs out of prospective jurors, the local Sheriff can go out and randomly serve subpoenas upon unsuspecting citizens ordering them to report to court the next day to be considered for potential jury duty!
In fact, once the jury was finally seated, Assistant Attorney General John Russel told the jurors that, “Well, you are either the luckiest or unluckiest jurors I’ve ever argued before. In fact, I think this may be a history-making event, and it will be something you can tell your grandkids.” Russel then admitted that even he had no knowledge of the little-known statute that permitted two of the active jurors and all of the alternates to have literally been plucked from off the streets the day before.
It was interesting to watch the final stage of jury selection and the uniqueness of the situation. Prospective jurors were explaining how they were served (walking out of Wal Mart, was just out in the front yard, etc.), and one prospective juror provided what we believe is the likely explanation for why the Court had to resort to the little-known statute.
As part of that juror’s questioning, he was asked about the Principle of the Presumption of Innocence. He was told about the prior 10-2 non-unanimous jury verdict and the U. S. Supreme Court vacating Victor’s conviction and informed that, “What that means is that, as Mr. Victor sits before this Court, he is presumed to be innocent.” The young gentleman, a black man appearing to be in his mid 20s or so, was then asked, “Do you have any issue with that presumption of innocence?” His response: “Yeah, I have a problem with that!” He was then asked to elaborate, and he stated: “Well, I mean, he did it!” Obviously he was excused and thanked for his time with emphasis of appreciation from Judge Dennis Waldron for coming in, “on such short notice.”
The jury was finally seated by the end of the day Wednesday. Burns skipped Thursday, July 14, 2022 in order to attend the Louisiana State Police Commission meeting. He returned on Friday, at which time a pediatrician spent about 40 minutes on the witness stand refuting the notion that Victor’s stepson could have died from a snake bite. After his testimony, one of Victor’s stepson’s took the witness stand and testified in excruciating detail just what all he observed the night of his brother’s death and the next morning. Being blunt, Burns simply could not remain in the courtroom to hear any other witnesses testify because that testimony alone was very difficult to hear. Accordingly, Burns left on Friday afternoon, July 15, 2022, and opted to just await the mainstream media reporting on the final verdict (though we should note that almost no mainstream media was present during any of the time Burns was in attendance).
The 12-0 guilty verdict was reached on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. From the previous feature:
The decision presented the question of retroactivity for previous non-unanimous convictions in Louisiana, including Victor’s 2014 conviction.
The Attorney General’s Office argued that M.L. had been severely beaten by Victor before he was pronounced deceased at River Parishes Hospital on April 1, 2008.
“He’s guilty of second-degree murder no matter how you look at the statute,” Attorney John Russel said Wednesday, adding, “At some point after you whip a kid for hours, you are intentionally inflicting bodily harm.”
“(Victor) is not an incapable man, but he committed a terrible, terrible deed, whether intentionally or accidentally…he whipped M.L. until that little boy died,” Russel said.
Several of the boys, now young men, testified over the course of the trial. Victor’s stepsons said Victor disciplined several of the children on March 31, 2008 after an ice cream was discovered to be missing from the freezer.
According to the prosecution, M.L. was beaten for several hours between March 31 and April 1, 2008, when he succumbed to his injuries. According to testimony, M.L. was lethargic and had white drool coming from his mouth. He was given ice and Pedialyte before being rushed to the hospital, where doctors observed parallel marks on his body and a large, confluent bruise that encompassed most of his back.
The defense argued that there could be several explanations for the marks on M.L.’s body and his lethargic state, including but not limited to a reaction from a snake bite.
Attorney General Jeff Landry issued the following statement Wednesday evening:
“This afternoon, justice was served to Errol Victor by a jury of his peers in St. John. I pray his conviction provides some healing and closure to the victim’s family.
“This jury’s verdict is the culmination of an exceptional prosecution by my Assistant Attorneys General John Russel, Daniel Smart, Ben Wallace, and Grant Willis. I thank them and Lillie Blackmon, Kristen Martin, Andrew Bergeron, and Chris Ribera from my office for their great work to get justice.
“Today further intensifies my commitment to do all we can to make Louisiana a safer place to live, work, worship and raise families.”
Let us also take a look at WWL-TV’s David Hammer providing video coverage of the verdict. Here it is:
Louisiana United International (LUI) was very actively involved in defending Victor. In fact, the organization even provided a webpage on its website devoted to accepting contributions to pay for Victor’s defense. The organization hired Mandeville-based attorney Claiborne Brown to defend Victor. It was a tad perplexing, then, to see a WWL-TV newscast wherein Dr. Zena D. Crenshaw-Logal, an Atlanta-based attorney who is an active LUI member, state before the trial that she felt Victor could get a fair trial only if he had, “competent zealous representation, and he does not have that.” Let’s take a look:
WWL-TV newscast wherein Crenshaw-Logal openly states Victor does not have “competent and zealous representation.”
Interestingly enough, Claiborne Brown declared himself to be “incompetent” as he shirked his duties to defend a rapist a decade ago. We have inquired about Brown’s actions in that rape trial of 10 years ago, and the reviews are mixed. Several of the folk we talked to said he was “highly principled” in forcing the judge to abandon the case. Others sided with Judge William Burris, who had this to say of Brown’s actions:
Judge William Burris, with “righteous indignation,” as he described his feelings on the matter, told the bailiffs to take Brown to the parish jail until he became willing to “perform his duties.”
It would set a “horrible precedent” to call off the trial with no obvious signs that the lawyer was incompetent; Brown had given a fine opening statement and adequately questioned witnesses, Burris noted.
We’re not going to play these games,” Burris said incredulously. “That’s all I see this as — game playing.”Brown apologized but held his ground. “Is there any reason I shouldn’t hold you in contempt?” Burris asked.
“No, your honor,” Brown replied. He then was led out of the courtroom by the bailiffs.
Our own thought is that, once one signs on as counsel for a case, just like flying an airplane as co-pilot, one has to be fully prepared to try that case (fly the airplane) no matter what the situation may be with co-counsel (co-pilot). That’s just our opinion, however. We firmly side with Judge Burris on the matter!
Irrespective of whether Brown may have been competent at either trial, and we’ll point out that Brown seemed extremely competent to us but we make the “irrespective” commentary only because of Crenshaw-Logal’s quote on the video, LUI certainly wasn’t done upon the rendering of Victor’s guilty verdict in 40th JDC.
Mere hours after the verdict, Victor and two LUI officials (Belinda Parker-Brown and Dr. Crenshaw-Logal) fax filed this Temporary Restraining Order in 19th JDC seeking to block imposition of Victor’s sentencing, which was scheduled to transpired on Tuesday, July 26, 2022. We contacted Division B of 40th JDC and were informed that the sentencing has been rescheduled for Friday, September 9, 2022.
The previous court filing is rather lengthy, but we think we can summarize the arguments in one sentence: The U. S. Supreme Court’s decision of April 27, 2020 constitutes an acquittal and therefore Victor’s recent trail represented double jeopardy.
At any rate, 19th JDC Judge Don Johnson (who most definitely does NOT hold a warm place in our hearts) is the Judge to whom the matter was assigned. On Friday, July 29, 2022, Judge Johnson signed the Temporary Restraining Order and set the matter for hearing for conversion to a Preliminary Injunction. That hearing is set for Thursday, August 11, 2022 at 10 a.m.
We will certainly attend that hearing because the outcome of this latest legal filing may have a profound effect upon other inmates similarly-situated to Victor. There is one thing we’re thankful for, however, and that is that the arguments should all be legal in nature. We hope we never have to sit in another courtroom and hear any further testimony of just what all transpired on the evening/morning of eight-year-old M. L. Lloyd III’s death. It was gut wrenching enough just to listen to it for about 90 minutes on July 15, 2022.
If you would like to be added to our Sound Off Louisiana email list to be notified of future posts, simply go to our home page and scroll to the bottom (mobile devices) or to the top of the right-hand column (desktops). Supply your email address within the subscribe box. You’ll then receive an automated email from Word Press, and all you have to do is click on the blue “confirm follow” bar contained within that email, and you’ll begin receiving great posts such as the preceding one above.