Brandon Lavergne’s latest effort to overturn his convictions in the murders of two women, one of them Lafayette college student Mickey Shunick, has failed.
Lavergne argued in his handwritten filing with the Louisiana Supreme Court that he was “coerced” into confessing to the crimes, was not mentally competent at the time and received ineffective counsel. The state’s high court on Friday declined to hear the appeal without giving reasons.
Lavergne is serving two life sentences in the killings of Shunick, who was 21 when she died, and 35-year-old Lisa Pate, whose 1999 death Lavergne admitted to during the Shunick investigation.
Lafayette Parish District Attorney Keith Stutes told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he believed the Supreme Court was correct to deny Lavergne a hearing. Stutes did not return a call to The Advocate on Tuesday, and efforts to contact members of Shunick’s family were unsuccessful.
Shunick, a student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, went missing on May 19, 2012. Her disappearance moved her family, friends and police to organize searches that involved hundreds of people.
In an August 2012 plea deal to avoid the death penalty, Lavergne confessed to using his truck to hit Shunick’s bicycle as she rode home before killing her. In the same confession, Lavergne told authorities that he also killed Pate, whose death in Acadia Parish 13 years earlier Lavergne had always been suspected in.
As part of his plea agreement, Lavergne also told authorities where in rural Evangeline Parish they could find Shunick’s body.
But Lavergne appears to have had confessor’s remorse ever since.
From his solitary cell in the Louisiana Penitentiary at Angola, the now-36-year-old over the last 2 ½ years has filed 30 federal lawsuits and numerous appeals in state court contesting his convictions.
In the appeal the Supreme Court denied Friday, Lavergne claimed his arrest in the Shunick disappearance was based on a faulty warrant. It also claims he was mentally incompetent, that his court-appointed defense attorneys were ineffective, that a district judge erred in dismissing an appeal application, and that the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal did not recognize the district judge’s error.
“The petitioner (Lavergne) was coerced into a plea in the Shunick and unrelated Pate case on 17 August 2012 while not being mentally competent (and) received life sentences,” Lavergne said in a handwritten filing in asking the Supreme Court for a hearing to overturn his confessions.
In a separate lawsuit filed in federal court against Angola in September, Lavergne challenges his imprisonment on several grounds.
“The state created a lynch mob by its actions and than (sic) instead of admitting it was wrong (to) send an innocent man to prison for life but not just life but life in solitary confinement as stated in a rewrote plea made to manipulate all while the petitioner was mentally incompetent,” Lavergne wrote in a memorandum accompanying the lawsuit.
The entire memorandum, 23 pages long, is crafted with run-on sentences and numerous typos, and contains the same theme that run through all of Lavergne’s writings: Under a heading he termed “Declaration of Innocence,” Lavergne wrote: “I, Brandon S. Lavergne, petitioner, herein is (sic) innocent of these disgusting allegations.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.