A state district court judge has ruled that Lafayette teenager Earl Joseph III, who is accused of killing a man at a flea market in 2014, is mentally competent to stand trial on a charge of first-degree murder.
Judge Patrick Michot on Thursday also ordered future court documents containing Joseph’s medical records sealed from public view.
Michot based his decision on Joseph’s mental competency on reports written by two psychologists who evaluated Joseph this year and found the 16-year-old fit to stand trial.
Joseph is accused of killing Jockey Lot flea market employee Michael Patin, 49, about 11 p.m. Feb. 2, 2014.
A Lafayette Parish grand jury in February 2014 charged Joseph with first-degree murder. Though the District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting Joseph as an adult, federal law prohibits the death penalty because of Joseph’s age at the time of the killing, 15.
If convicted, Joseph faces life in prison.
Michot has not set a trial date.
Joseph appeared at the hearing Thursday dressed in an orange jumpsuit of the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center, where he has been held since he was indicted Feb. 5, 2014.
His wrists and ankles were bound, he wore his hair a little shorter than when he was arrested, and he appeared to have put on some weight in the 16 months he’s been incarcerated.
Joseph’s attorneys in May asked Michot to appoint a sanity commission to evaluate Joseph’s maturity and whether he was mentally fit to comprehend his circumstances.
A commission of two Lafayette clinical psychologists — F.T. Friedberg and Lyle LeCorgne — issued reports that concluded Joseph was competent. Friedberg in his report found that Joseph met “the minimal criteria of ability to stand trial and to aid and assist his counsel in his defense.”
LeCorgne’s report has not been made public and likely never will be, though prosecutor Michelle Billeaud and Joseph’s court-appointed attorney Jane Hogan said LeCorgne’s findings also concluded Joseph was mentally competent.
Hogan said the public availability of Friedberg’s report violated Joseph’s medical privacy rights, and Michot ordered that future medical records be sealed. Michot also scheduled a hearing for Sept. 22.
The night Patin was killed started with Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies being called out to the Jockey Lot about a group of boys involved in a theft. Deputies rounded up all the boys except Joseph, who hid.
A sheriff’s spokesman said that after deputies left the business at 11:05 p.m., Joseph tried to steal a vehicle and Patin confronted him. Joseph allegedly shot Patin in the back, killing him, police have said.
Joseph was arrested at his Lafayette home at 5:47 a.m. the next day.
In his psychological evaluation, Friedberg found that Joseph had a “very chaotic childhood” that was devoid of male role models. His older brother and his father spent time in jail, Friedberg wrote.
“Certainly, he has a great social immaturity and poor judgment, as one might expect considering the deficits in his male role models,” Friedberg wrote.