A story of love and war unfolded Thursday in the 15th Judicial District Court during the first murder trial in Lafayette Parish since the start of the pandemic.
The case is unusual in that it has two defendants, who are accused of plotting and killing Lafayette boxer Brandon Broussard, in a single trial.
Prosecutor Roya Boustany told the jury that the state's evidence will demonstrate that Carlos Toby was the thinker and his brother, Shavis Toby, was the actor in the Oct. 13, 2018, murder of Broussard, who was shot to death in front of his girlfriend's 4-year-old child outside of her home.
Two weeks before the shooting, Broussard and Carlos Toby fought at a nightclub, Boustany said, noting that Broussard had discovered a text message on his girlfriend's phone from Carlos Toby, the father of her child, earlier that day.
"This is real life," Boustany told the jury. "This is why you're here."
The Toby brothers, who have been jailed without bond since their 2018 arrests, were each indicted on a charge of second-degree murder and criminal conspiracy to commit second-degree murder in Broussard's death. Each brother pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Carlos Toby was living in Texas at the time of the shooting, and Shavis Toby was living in New Iberia, Boustany said. Cell phone records show that the two brothers met in Lafayette about seven hours before Broussard was ambushed outside of a Grossie Lane home, she said.
Police would immediately identify Carlos Toby as a person of interest in the murder, according to Boustany, based on witness statements and surveillance footage.
Boustany said DNA found on the fingertip of a blue latex glove at the scene of the crime matched that of Shavis Toby. The rest of the glove and other evidence would later be recovered from a Vermilion Parish home connected to the brothers, she said.
The criminal defense attorneys representing each of the Toby brothers said the state's evidence against the defendants is questionable and does not prove the brothers are responsible for the boxer's death.
Todd Clemons, who is representing Carlos Toby, and Kevin Boshea, who is representing Shavis Toby, both pointed to early witness statements that a man seen fleeing the scene of the crime was tall and thin. Carlos Toby is 5 feet, 9 inches, and Shavis Toby is 5 feet, 6 inches, according to arrest records. Boshea told jurors that both men weigh over 200 pounds.
The case doesn't just involve two brothers, according to Clemons. It also involves two sisters, one of whom was dating Broussard at the time of the murder but was allegedly cheating on him with Carlos Toby, Clemons said.
Clemons repeatedly called Lashea Dugas "conniving and deceitful" and told the jury that she and her sister, Leeosha Dugas, blamed Carlos Toby for Broussard's murder.
"They created a narrative shortly after Brandon was killed," Clemons said.
Boshea said he's identified five other suspects from the night of Broussard's murder and that the state's case will show only circumstantial evidence that Shavis Toby was involved.
"The state does not know what happened in this case," Boshea told the jury. "That's not me saying it. That's what their evidence is going to show."
Before the jury was seated Thursday morning, Judge Royale Colbert addressed accusations of bias in the courtroom over two actions he'd taken earlier in the week.
The first bias allegation came from Colbert allowing the mother of the Toby brothers to speak to her son in the courtroom after court adjourned for the day. The second bias allegation came from Colbert taking Broussard's family into his chambers to instruct them not to discuss the trial proceedings on social media.
Colbert told the family and friends of the victim and the defendants that since he, as a judge, "can't be a human being," there would be no more contact in the courtroom from that moment forward. He also warned that any outburst from either side would result in the person being thrown out of the courthouse altogether, whether it was "a clap, a whisper or a whistle."
The trial will resume Friday morning.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated what evidence was found at a Vermilion Parish home. The Acadiana Advocate regrets this error.