Posted: Aug 29, 2013 6:16 PM by Chris Welty & Dwayne Fatherree
Updated: Aug 29, 2013 9:17 PM
A trial date has been set for the teenager accused of shooting and killing a teen and injuring two others.
Seth Fontenot is accused of killing 15-year-old Austin Rivault and injuring two other teens after shooting at their vehicle. He's facing charges of first degree murder and two counts of attempted first degree murder.
Today, a Lafayette judge has granted a motion from Seth Fontenot's defense attorney for background checks to be run on the grand jury members who handed down the murder indictment against the 18-year-old.
Fifteenth Judicial District Judge Kristian Earles said he will allow the background checks to be run in his chambers with defense and prosecuting attorneys present. The decision came during a pre-trial motions hearing this morning in Lafayette.
A tentative trial date has been set for November 12.
"By not having a background check, the grand jury selection violates my client's constitutional rights," Guilbeau said during his argument in favor of the motion. He also claimed that 15th Judicial District Commissioner Thomas Frederick exceeded his authority in the grand jury selection process, but did not cite specifics.
Assistant District Attorney Mark Garber said none of Guilbeau's arguments were specific. He claimed the background checks should not be allowed, calling them "a fishing expedition that has gone too far."
Garber also cited his concern that the background checks could violate the privacy and anonymity of the jurors. In his arguments, Guilbeau said he believed several of the grand jurors had previous convictions that could have prejudiced their decision.
In another motion, Earles ruled that the initial interview with Fontenot after the shooting will be allowed into evidence, despite defense claims that he did not know he was a suspect at the time of the interrogation.
According to the three Lafayette Police detectives who testified, however, Fontenot was read his Miranda rights, brought to an interview room and questioned. He was also informed he had killed someone about halfway through questioning. In the interrogation transcript, it says Seth Fontenot told police, "I didn't have any intention to kill anyone."
During testimony, police said Fontenot seemed "shocked" to hear the news. Defense attorney Katherine Guilbeau Guilliot pressed on asking the detective why he didn't tell her client he was a homicide suspect and he could ultimately receive the death penalty or life in jail.
Detectives told her, they told Seth Fontentot they were investigating a gun incident that happened near his home. The detective went on to say, "We weren't sure if it was a justifiable homicide." Detectives also told Fontenot, "Your honesty is appreciated, it makes our investigation easier."
In the interrogation transcript, police say Fontenot said, "it wasn't a homicide." Fontenot went on to say, "I don't know him (Austin Rivault). He could have been something great."
Fontenot continues in the interrogation transcript to tell detectives his intention was to hit the back of the pick up truck to scare the three teens. Fontenot says, "I intended to hit the tailgate." It was at that point, the detective says he was able to develop his conclusion of what happened that night.
The detective told Fontenot during the interrogation, "Seems like you have a good head on your shoulders and you were dealt a bad hand of cards. Three shots were fired and you hit three targets, statistically, that's impressive. You hit them, but you had no intention of hitting anyone in the cab."
During cross examination, Guilbeau said the detective lied to Fontenot when he said this case was just about a gun. She says, "This case was always about a homicide. You knew since 2:30 that morning it was a homicide. You brought him in and you didn't directly tell him he was a suspect in a homicide investigation and the charges he could face. Your mind was made up before you started questioning him."
Defense Attorney Tommy Guilbeau says this "confession" was unconstitutionally obtained. He continued to say, Seth isn't law enforcement. He wasn't fully advised that he was giving up his rights. The constitution protects people like Seth from the police being buddy buddy and then charging you."
Despite the defense's motion, Judge Earles denied the motion to suppress the interrogation.
Guilbeau also requested a copy of Fontenot's taped confession, along with specific information about which parts of the tape were played to the grand jury.
The issue of the Our Lady of Lourdes video from the night of the shooting also came up during the hearing. The State and the Defense agree to only allow images of the two injured teens going into Lourdes during the trial. Images of slain teen Austin Rivault will not be shown during the trial.
Guilbeau wants to know if there is any exculpatory evidence on the video. He also requested a transcript of grand jury testimony, which Earles will allow as an in camera inspection.
So far, an autopsy report has not been released from the coroner's office and both sides are waiting on the ballistic report from the Acadian Crime Lab.
Fontenot's trial date is set for November 12. He's facing charges of first degree murder and two counts of attempted first degree murder.