One of two psychologists called on to examine a Lafayette youth accused in the 2014 killing of a flea market employee says Earl Joseph III is mentally fit to stand trial.
F.T. Friedberg, a Lafayette clinical psychologist, said that although Joseph was depressed during the examination and that he often cried at night in his jail cell, the 16-year-old showed no signs of a having a cognitive disorder.
Friedberg also noted that Joseph had a “very chaotic” childhood and that the youth took drugs when he was 13.
“In summary, Mr. Joseph appears to meet the minimal criteria of ability to stand trial and to aid and assist his counsel in his defense,” Friedberg wrote in his assessment of Joseph, which was made public in 15th Judicial District Court.
Judge Patrick Michot in early May ruled that a sanity commission would weigh in on Joseph’s mental fitness, which Joseph’s attorneys asked for. Ultimately, it will be Michot who decides if Joseph is competent.
The other clinical psychologist on the sanity commission, Lyle LeCorgne of Lafayette, has not yet filed his findings.
Joseph, 16, had just turned 15 when police said he shot Michael Patin to death at the Jockey Lot in north Lafayette Parish near Carencro in early February 2014. A witness said Joseph shot the 49-year-old Patin in the back after Patin confronted the boy over an attempted vehicle theft.
A grand jury charged Joseph with first-degree murder. However, because of his age at the time of the incident, Joseph does not face the death penalty. If he’s convicted as charged, Joseph does face life in prison.
On May 12, Friedberg assessed Joseph’s cognitive abilities and evaluated how competent he is.
Friedberg also reviewed Joseph’s records at the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center, where Joseph is incarcerated with adult male inmates.
“Mental health records at LPCC noted anxiety, depression, and Mr. Joseph was noted to be crying in his cell,” Friedberg wrote.
Joseph’s records in the Lafayette Parish school system also show he was in special education classes, that he flunked second and possibly fourth grades and that his report cards recorded mostly Ds and Fs.
Late on Feb. 4, 2014, a Sunday, Joseph was with a group of other underage boys on the grounds of the flea market, when Lafayette Parish sheriff’s deputies arrived to investigate a reported theft.
Deputies apprehended most of the boys, but Joseph remained hidden until law enforcement left the site. A sheriff’s spokesman said at the time that Patin confronted Joseph when the youth tried to steal a vehicle.
Joseph was arrested at his home in Lafayette early Feb. 5.
Friedberg said that in an interview Joseph “describes a very chaotic childhood.
“Both his father and older brother have been incarcerated,” Friedberg said. “… There is an extreme lack of positive role models.”
“Certainly, he has great social immaturity and poor judgment, as one might expect considering the deficits in his male role models,” Friedberg said.