OPELOUSAS — A state district judge declared a mistrial Thursday in the second-degree murder trial involving a Eunice toddler’s death, after the jury heard a taped statement that included allegations of possible past criminal activity by the defendant.
District Judge Alonzo Harris granted the mistrial after Roy Richard, the attorney for Robert Miller III, objected to the tape, which the jury heard.
“On the tape there was questioning about prior allegations pertaining to my client for which (Miller) was never charged or arrested,” Richard said in an interview Thursday.
Miller, 36, was on trial in the Feb. 24, 2013, death of 19-month-old Victoria Renee LeJeune, who at the time was living with Miller and her mother, Kimberly LeJeune, in a trailer on U.S. 190 west of Eunice.
Richard said the tape is of an interview between St. Landry Parish Sheriff Deputy Jessie Martin and Miller during the investigation.
“These allegations were heard on tape in the presence of the jury,” Roy Richard said.
“This matter of whether the tape could be allowed (in testimony) was taken up by the Third Circuit (Court of Appeal) and it has been a topic of discussion throughout,” Richard said. “The defense and the prosecution have different opinions on the (appellate court) ruling.”
“The judge (Harris) had ruled that part of the interview would not be admissible, but the jury heard it,” Richard said.
Prosecutor Donald Richard did not return phone calls made to the District Attorney’s Office and his cell phone for comment. A receptionist in the DA’s Office said District Attorney Earl Taylor was not in his office Thursday.
Roy Richard said Harris scheduled a new trial for Miller on the November criminal docket.
During this week’s truncated trial, Victoria Renee’s mother, Kimberly LeJeune, testified she had noticed bruises were beginning to appear on her daughter two days before the girl died.
LeJeune said the bruises were obvious enough that Victoria Renee could not be taken anywhere in public view.
LeJeune, who previously worked as a nurse, said she never considered taking her daughter to the hospital to examine the bruises.
“She (Victoria Renee) was still active and her pupils weren’t dilating. She wasn’t drowsy. I didn’t feel a she needed to go to the hospital,” LeJeune said.
Lejeune said she never saw Miller physically beat Victoria Renee. Miller would sometimes poke the girl heavily in the back of the head with his fingers, which caused Victoria Renee to become aggravated, LeJeune said.
LeJeune also said she was becoming frightened of Miller, who she said had a temper and had been acting irritable in the days prior to the incident.
On Tuesday several medical experts testified that Victoria Renee died of severe brain bleed caused by repeated trauma to the body. The toddler’s body, doctors testified, was covered in bruises.