A Baton Rouge man charged three different times in the 2014 slaying of West St. John High School quarterbacks coach Juan Joseph no longer faces a second-degree murder count in the case, prosecutors announced Monday as they await DNA test results that they hope will finger the alleged triggerman.
Lemark Cloud, 27, who prosecutors have acknowledged is not the alleged shooter, allegedly instigated an argument outside a Bennington Avenue nightclub that led to the fatal shooting of the 27-year-old Joseph on Nov. 16, 2014.
Cloud’s attorney denied that allegation Monday, as he has done in the past.
Cloud’s cousin, Kendric Cloud, once considered by police as the alleged shooter, was booked previously in the case on counts of second-degree murder, illegal use of a weapon and felon in possession of a firearm, but an East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury took no action against him in March 2015.
District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Monday that Kendric Cloud, 26, of Baker, is not being prosecuted or investigated in the case.
“The original identification made by a witness of Kendric Cloud was not reliable due to the intoxication of that witness,” he said.
Moore said another person is now being investigated as the alleged shooter. The DNA case file has been sent to Cybergenetics in Pennsylvania in hopes that more information and evidence can be obtained, he said.
Joseph was a former star at Millsaps College and brother of former Southern University quarterback Dray Joseph.
Prosecutors first charged Lemark Cloud in January 2015 as an accessory to second-degree murder. The bill of information also charged him as a felon in possession of a firearm and with obstruction of justice.
But in March 2015, the grand jury raised the ante and indicted Lemark Cloud on counts of principal to second-degree murder, which carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison upon conviction, and felon in possession of a firearm.
He was scheduled to stand trial Monday on those charges, but prosecutors filed a superseding bill of information on Feb. 11 dropping the murder charge and charging him instead on single counts of accessory to second-degree murder and felon in possession of a firearm, and three counts of aggravated assault with a firearm.
Lemark Cloud, whose remains jailed in lieu of $300,000 bail, pleaded not guilty to those charges Monday with his attorney, Tommy Damico, at his side.
A conviction for accessory to second-degree murder is punishable by up to five years behind bars.
Several of Joseph’s relatives were in state District Judge Richard Anderson’s courtroom Monday but declined comment afterward.
Damico said outside the courtroom that Lemark Cloud had nothing to do with Joseph’s killing.
“We told them from the first that he was not involved in the murder, that he was not involved in the shooting,” Damico said.
He acknowledged that Lemark Cloud was at the scene but does not concede he was armed that night.
Damico said witnesses have alleged that a friend of Joseph initiated the confrontation outside Allure Baton Rouge that led to his shooting. Police have said Joseph tried to defuse the situation.
“The deceased was at the wrong place at the wrong time and was trying to extricate his friend,” Damico added.