A state district judge in Lafayette has ordered most of the court documents sealed in the death-penalty case of Landon Broussard, who is accused of raping and killing his girlfriend’s little boy three years ago.
Judge Laurie Hulin last week told the Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court’s Office to shut off public and press access to most of Broussard’s court file. Deputy clerk Sally Lane, who heads the office’s criminal records division, said Monday that Hulin ordered “anything not produced in open court is not to be released.”
Hulin’s order to the clerk’s office came years after another directive, issued by now-retired Judge Durwood Conque in 2013, that sealed documents in the Broussard court case. Until last week, however, at least some of the documents remained open to the public.
Cy Savoy, who is Hulin’s law clerk, said Monday he could not speak about the case, except to say: “Any order issued by Judge Conque is still in effect.”
William Babin, the assistant district attorney prosecuting the case, said Monday he would err on the side of caution and also declined to comment about the case.
Broussard is accused of beating his girlfriend’s 3-year-old son to death over time, autopsy results of Julian Madera show. An examination also revealed that body fluids containing Broussard’s DNA were allegedly in Julian’s body.
After the DNA evidence was catalogued, a grand jury charged Broussard with aggravated rape of a child. Julian would have turned 4 years old two months after he was pronounced dead Nov. 29, 2012, when Broussard brought the dead child’s naked body to his grandmother’s home.
Babin, along with Broussard’s defense team of attorneys Clay LeJeune and Elliott Brown, took part in an hours-long hearing Nov. 18 in Hulin’s courtroom. They addressed 48 motions filed in October by LeJeune and Brown.
According to documents obtained by The Acadiana Advocate before Hulin shut down access last week, one of the motions requests that Hulin “control prejudicial publicity” by setting up barriers to the press. That includes a blanket ban on coverage of pretrial hearings in the months before Broussard’s trial, which is scheduled for July 25.
LeJeune also asks Hulin to direct “the media to tape and photograph Mr. Broussard in his civilian clothes and without shackles and handcuffs to use as their portrayal of him in their stories on the case,” according to one of the motions filed Oct. 19. In hearings, Broussard has appeared in his prison clothes, ankles and wrists bound by chains.
Babin answered in a court document, now sealed, that the press has constitutional protections and leeway in gathering documents, covering trials and photographing felony defendants. Though no cameras are allowed inside Lafayette courtrooms, defendants are often photographed and video-taped walking from the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center to the courthouse, which are divided by a public street.
Some of the evidence Babin plans to use in Broussard’s death penalty trial next summer is revealed in another case file, the aggravated rape case against Broussard that has not been sealed.
In August, Babin asked Hulin to temporarily dismiss the rape charge. Babin wrote that he planned to bring evidence of the alleged rape into Broussard’s murder trial. If Broussard is found guilty of murder, it would “in all likelihood serve to resolve this charge of aggravated rape,” Babin wrote.
The District Attorney’s Office reserved the right to reinstitute the rape charge against Broussard if needed, Babin wrote.