The death penalty will not be an option for jurors in the scheduled July trial of a man accused of killing two people at Grady Crawford Construction in 2009 because a judge on Friday determined the accused killer to be intellectually disabled.
State District Judge Tony Marabella, who received reports from several doctors indicating 58-year-old Richard Matthews is what was formerly called mentally retarded, told Matthews he had two choices: go to trial without the death penalty as a possible sentence or plead guilty.
“It don’t make no difference to me. I’m just a willing participant,” a shackled Matthews replied. “You know I did it. Everybody in the world knows that.”
The Slaughter man has already proclaimed his guilt to police and reporters but chose to take the case to trial instead of formally pleading guilty in front of the victims’ families on Friday. A guilty plea would have brought the long-standing murder case to an end more than five years after Matthews’ arrest.
Marabella set a date of July 20. Matthews faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder. His attorneys said intellectual disability will be used as part of his defense.
In September 2013, the judge found Matthews competent to assist his attorneys.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said it was frustrating to hear Matthews turn down a chance to plead guilty.
“My frustration is for the victims’ families. I was hoping they wouldn’t have to go through this scene again,” he said afterward. “It’s unfortunate. These families have been very patient and understanding of the system.”
Matthews is accused of killing clerical workers Dianna Tullier, 44, of Walker, and Cheryl Boykin, 55, of Denham Springs, and wounding a third employee at Grady Crawford Construction Co. on Dec. 23, 2009. He had been laid off from the firm several months before the shootings.
Prosecutors had intended to seek the death penalty. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 prohibited the execution of mentally retarded persons.
Kyla Romanach, one of Matthews’ court-appointed attorneys, said outside the 19th Judicial District Courthouse that she isn’t sure what will happen between now and July 20.
“I think the intellectual disability affects every decision he makes,” she said. “I think that was evident today. He doesn’t have a whole lot of rational thought processes.”
Romanach said Matthews’ intellectual disability, and his past uncooperativeness and unwillingness to work with his attorneys and with some doctors, are some of the reasons why the murder case has dragged on for so long. She also noted that Matthews has had no less than six different attorneys over the years.
“Every capital (murder) case takes longer than anybody anticipates,” added David Price, one of Matthews’ attorneys.
Moore said hundreds of motions have been filed in the case since its inception more than five years ago.
“These are complicated cases,” he said of capital murder prosecutions. “They normally take five years to go to trial.”
The day he was terminated from the Greenwell Springs Road business, Matthews told someone at the company that they had not heard the last of him, but the remark was not reported to the Sheriff’s Office until Dec. 23, 2009, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux has said.
Matthews is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted first-degree murder.
One of the attempted murder counts accuses Matthews of trying to kill Trey Crawford, a son of the owner of Grady Crawford Construction. Trey Crawford was not at the business when Matthews arrived that afternoon but allegedly was the intended target, Moore has said.
Trey Crawford was in the courtroom Friday, as were members of the Tullier and Boykin families, but left the courthouse without speaking to reporters. None of the family members spoke.
An affidavit of probable cause says Matthews told a deputy he “did not mean to shoot anyone other than the owner’s son.” Matthews was fired by the owner’s son because of poor work performance, the affidavit states. Matthews had worked as a laborer at the business for five years.
Marabella said his own personal observations of and interaction with Matthews played a part in his ruling Friday.
At a hearing in January 2013, Matthews refused to state his name for the judge and would not commit to cooperate fully with his attorneys. When Marabella asked Matthews at that hearing if he would be willing to discuss possible defenses with his lawyers, Matthews replied, “What’s there to talk about?”
During a July 2012 hearing when prosecutor Darwin Miller asked Marabella to consider appointing doctors to assess Matthews’ competency to proceed, Matthews contradicted his attorneys and said he is not communicating with them because, “I really don’t need no help.”
“I couldn’t get no help (in 2009) when I needed to pay my bills,” he added, also saying he could not get help with unemployment benefits.
Matthews stated during a May 2012 hearing that he didn’t need attorneys because, “I did a crime.”
While deputies were escorting him from the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office the day of the shootings, Matthews told reporters, “I was trying to get my unemployment, but they wouldn’t give me my unemployment. … I would never have did that.”
Two weeks later at his first court appearance, Marabella asked Matthews if he had funds to hire a lawyer, and Matthews replied, “If I did, I wouldn’t be here.”