The Jefferson Parish judge overseeing the Jaren Lockhart murder and dismemberment case on Friday refused a defense request for a full-blown hearing to decide whether to throw out an alleged jailhouse confession by one of the Bourbon Street dancer’s two accused killers.
Judge Steven Grefer refused the request for a hearing that would have included witness testimony about whether Terry Speaks should have been read his Miranda rights before his conversations with a cellmate while serving time in New York on an unrelated charge.
Grefer will instead rule after hearing attorneys’ oral arguments Jan. 12 in 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna.
Speaks and his girlfriend, Margaret Sanchez, are charged with second-degree murder and obstruction of justice in the 2012 stabbing death of Lockhart, who was seen on surveillance video leaving the Temptations strip club with the two on June 6.
Days later, parts of her dismembered body washed up on Gulf Coast beaches.
It was during Speaks’ time in federal prison in Otisville, New York, that authorities say he told cellmate Christian Del Rosario that he and Sanchez had killed “a girl” in Louisiana, carved up her body and dumped the remains off a bridge in coastal Mississippi so they could not be found.
Speaks and Sanchez are being held in the Jefferson Parish lockup; prosecutors have indicated they plan to try the two separately.
Speaks’ attorney filed the motion to suppress the confession last week, saying Del Rosario was acting as an agent for authorities, who allegedly put him in situations close to Sanchez in order to win his confidence.
Attorney John Benz cited certificates of completion granted to Del Rosario for suicide watch, drug abstinence and victim impact programs as evidence of his claim.
Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick’s office countered in motions filed this week that the defense’s argument amounts only to vague speculation, not facts, about Del Rosario’s involvement with law enforcement.
Prosecutors said Del Rosario wasn’t acting as an agent of the state, and even if he was, Speaks’ incarceration on an unrelated charge doesn’t amount to custody as it relates to Miranda rights. Case law shows that those kinds of conversations don’t amount to an interrogation, they said.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.