Just over a week before his trial is slated to begin, Terry Speaks has asked a Jefferson Parish judge to replace the lawyer representing him against a charge of second-degree murder in the death and dismemberment of Bourbon Street dancer Jaren Lockhart.
Speaks, who is also charged with obstruction of justice along with his alleged accomplice, Margaret Sanchez, wrote a two-page letter from his jail cell to 24th Judicial District Court Judge Stephen Grefer asking that John Benz, of the Public Defender’s Office, be dismissed from the case.
Speaks wrote that Benz won’t allow him enough input on defense motions. Citing a recent unsuccessful motion to quash the indictment, Speaks said he wanted Benz to present evidence at a hearing that Lockhart said she was leaving Temptations Gentlemen’s Club with someone else — someone she mentioned by name — in the early morning hours of June 6, 2012.
That’s when authorities say Lockhart is shown on surveillance footage leaving the club with Speaks and Sanchez. They say she went to their Kenner apartment for a private party but was stabbed to death at some point hours later. Prosecutors say Speaks then dismembered the corpse and he and Sanchez drove to Mississippi, where they threw the body parts into waterways.
Speaks also wrote that there are “other certain facts that show something else going on with her that night (by phone records) that point to other suspects.”
“Your honor this is not a typical murder case by any means. It is actually one of Louisiana’s highest profile cases and does not need to be looked at so lightly,” Speaks wrote. “This is my life as well as another person’s life that will be affected by the outcome. Everybody wants justice in this case and both the defendant and victim deserve the best representation possible.”
Speaks said he has spoken to Benz only eight times in the 210 days he has been in Jefferson Parish prison, never for more than an hour.
He apologized for the last-minute request but said he wasn’t aware until recently that he could ask for a new lawyer.
Benz could not be reached for comment Friday evening, though he generally refuses to speak with the media.
Speaks is also being represented by Brad Scott, who joined the case last month.
Benz sought unsuccessfully to have the case delayed, saying he hadn’t had enough time to prepare. Grefer said the June 15 trial date was firm and that with the addition of Scott, Benz should have time to be ready.
Sanchez, who is being represented by different attorneys with the Public Defender’s Office, is to be tried separately. She does not have a trial date set yet.