Even before the jury entered the Edgard courtroom Wednesday for the seventh day of the second-degree murder trial of Errol Victor Sr. and his wife, Tonya Victor, there was conflict about how the Reserve couple, who are accused of killing Tonya Victor’s 8-year-old son in 2008, planned to defend themselves.
Tonya Victor wanted to submit into evidence YouTube videos of statements she had made related to her family’s life. Prosecutor Julie Cullen objected to them as “self-serving” and inappropriate.
Judge Mary Hotard Becnel ruled the videos inadmissible, though she did consent to Tonya Victor’s request to show the jury a recorded interview conducted by St. John the Baptist Parish detectives in 2009.
Errol Victor then erupted in a tirade, one of many fiery reactions the former businessman and real estate developer directed toward Becnel and Cullen during the day.
“They have to take a look at our lifestyle to be able to judge,” he exclaimed. “They’re getting it piece by piece. There’s a lot missing in the puzzle.”
The fact that the couple are mounting their own defense has been a central element in the bizarre and unorthodox trial, which has featured conflicting testimony from four of Tonya Victor’s children and five of Errol Victor’s kids about what happened at the Reserve home on April, 1, 2008.
The Victors lived with 13 children — 11 from their past marriages — in their residence, where their kids attended home school.
Prosecutors have alleged Errol Victor beat M.L Lloyd III with a belt as punishment for pilfering an ice cream snack. The boy was taken to River Parishes Hospital that day and was pronounced dead on arrival.
Errol Victor and Tonya Victor claim M.L. died from a sudden asthma attack.
During the state’s case, four of Tonya Victor’s children testified Errol Victor was the one who beat the boy. Some of them also testified he had the other children hold M.L. down.
They also said Errol Victor used to withhold food from Tonya Victor’s children.
On Tuesday, two of Errol Victor’s sons denied that claim, saying it was Tonya Victor who beat M.L and characterizing their father as an admirable dad.
That trend continued Wednesday, when three more of Errol Victor’s sons testified in support of their father.
The three, now ranging in age from 19 to 24, all said it was Tonya Victor who inflicted the beating on M.L. They said their father was not home at the time.
“I woke up that morning and Mama had a belt in her hand and she was talking to M.L. about stealing,” said 21-year-old Emmanuel Victor.
When questioning his kids, Errol Victor tried to shed the image of a controlling, abusive father who severely disciplined his children.
“Did anyone ever get whupped, beaten or kicked?” he asked.
“No, sir,” Emmanuel Victor said.
“Did I prep you to give any answers to this court?”
Despite being admonished by Becnel to stop testifying himself, Errol Victor broke into frequent asides in which he stressed that his kids had an easygoing lifestyle where they didn’t operate on schedules and were only assigned self-imposed punishments such as running laps.
“Do we do things by time, this o’clock, that o’clock, this o’clock?” he asked Emmanuel Victor.
He son once again replied, “No.”
The testimony of his two other sons — Trent Victor, 24, and Chance Victor, 20 — followed a similar pattern.
During cross-examination, all three sons said they didn’t remember much else about that day, including the details of statements they had given after the fact, some of which Cullen said conflicted with their testimony in court.
Errol Victor also called Capt. Kevin Mitchell, an investigator for the St. John the Baptist Sheriff’s Office, to the stand.
He grilled Mitchell about why the death certificate signed on April 1 listed the child’s cause of death as “undetermined.”
Mitchell said the cause of death on the certificate was only preliminary and the coroner later told him the significant bruising on M.L’s body was the actual cause of death.
Though she left the lion’s share of the legal duties to her husband, Tonya Victor also questioned some witnesses Wednesday.
The defense will continue its case on Thursday.