Tony Clayton gained much of his reputation while prosecuting reputed south Louisiana serial killer Derrick Todd Lee, but the high-profile attorney said Saturday the trial he remembers most is another one that “almost killed” him.
Clayton said he was about to begin his closing arguments in the murder trial of John Snyder in November 2010 when his left eye “suddenly became engulfed in blood.”
“I grabbed the podium, told the jury to do what they felt was right and then told the DA to meet me outside the courtroom,” Clayton said. “I said, ‘Take me to the hospital. I think I’m dying.’”
Clayton, keynote speaker at the Louisiana Men’s Health Organization’s 2011 Men’s Health Conference held Saturday at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center, said the high tension and extreme pressure he felt in the packed courtroom caused a blood vessel in his eye to burst.
“I saw the look on my son’s face when I went past the waiting room with all these tubes and everything,” Clayton said. “This child was thinking, ‘I might not have my daddy anymore.’”
Clayton recovered, but he said the episode caused him to conclude, “I did not protect myself, and I did not protect my family.”
Clayton’s message to the audience on Saturday: Men have to routinely get health screenings for their sake and for the sake of their loved ones.
The title of Clayton’s speech to the audience of about 300 people was, “Nobody is Bulletproof, So Why Not Protect Yourself?”
The Men’s Health Conference is an annual expo free and open to the public that offers several ways for men to protect themselves with health screenings, resources and educational materials on a wide variety of men’s health issues.
Terry Hubbs, of Baton Rouge, said Clayton’s story of having a health emergency in the middle of a courtroom proceeding shows the importance of regular screenings.
“The main point is, you never know when an event is going to happen,” Hubbs said. “The bottom line is to prepare yourself.”
Clayton stressed how important it is to “know your numbers” meaning regularly get your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar checked. Clayton even recited his own numbers to the crowd, promising to improve on some of them.
Clayton, special prosecutor for the 18th Judicial District Court, who put Lee on trial in the Geralyn Barr DeSoto case, also talked about the parallels between his life and the life of Lee, who was sentenced to death in 2004 for the murder of one woman, and is serving a life sentence for the murder of DeSoto. Lee is a suspect in the murders of five other women.
Clayton asserted the parallels between himself and Lee highlight the importance of men’s health choices.
Clayton said both he and Lee grew up not too far away from each other, in strong nuclear families with grandmothers who were highly involved in their lives.
“One honored himself and worked hard, while the other chose to suck the life out of other people’s children,” Clayton said.
While Clayton was talking about serious issues such as diabetes and heart disease — and recited the grave statistics of those diseases for Louisiana residents — he was able to keep the mood light with humor for the mostly male audience.
“He was very well researched on the issues, and he touched on everything,” said John Taylor, of Baton Rouge.
“The way he related how he was brought up to another person, and choices … plus he made me laugh. So I really enjoyed it.”
Everyone can help make “Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and even America, a healthier place,” Clayton said in closing his speech, which received a standing ovation from the audience.
“Anything you have in life, you’ll enjoy it that much more if you’re healthy,” Clayton said. “Do it for your children and your loved ones.”