The man accused of a killing five people in Livingston and Ascension parishes last year is set to face a trial in August that could bring the death penalty. But that trial might be delayed until 2021 as defense attorneys deal with scheduling conflicts.
Dakota Theriot, 22, appeared Monday in district court in Livingston, where a judge set a trial to begin Aug. 10. That is the only available time to hold a trial there this year.
Prosecutors say Theriot fatally shot his girlfriend, Summer Ernest, along with her dad and brother in Livingston Parish before driving to neighboring Ascension Parish and shooting his parents in their trailer last January. They say Theriot had been living with Ernest's family after getting kicked out of his parents' home.
Authorities arrested Theriot at his grandmother's home about 50 miles northeast of Richmond, Virginia, following a brief but nationally publicized manhunt.
Theriot faces five counts of first-degree murder between Livingston and Ascension parishes for the killings of Summer, Tanner and Billy Ernest and his parents, Keith and Elizabeth Theriot. Each count carries the potential for the death penalty if convicted.
A judge has revoked bail, so Theriot has remained at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. He was at Monday's hearing, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit with his hands and legs shackled, but he did not speak.
Theriot pleaded not guilty to the five murder charges, but it's still unclear if his defense team plans to seek an insanity defense or present evidence arguing he isn't competent to stand trial.
Under the harsh fluorescent lighting of an empty garage, two teenagers danced.
Assistant District Attorney Kurt Wall said his office recently received some material about Theriot's mental health from his lawyers, but he declined to say what they were about.
If Theriot's attorneys do change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity, it could lead to further hearings on whether he's able to assist in his defense — and whether he could tell right from wrong during the alleged killings.
"It could halt everything," Wall said.
Theriot's lawyer, Elliot Brown, said Monday he's unavailable for a two-week trial because of another capital murder trial, which could further delay proceedings.
Judges in the 21st Judicial District preside over criminal and civil cases, and their schedules are often set a year in advance, which doesn't allow for much flexibility for changing trial dates.
Brown declined to comment on the case because it's still in the early stages. Evidence they've filed with the courts is not publicly available.
The cases are still in the pretrial phases. A trial date hasn't been set in Ascension.
Prosecutors' decision to seek the death penalty means stricter requirements that will draw out the length of the trial. Capital cases require additional steps, like requiring that defendants are represented by experienced defense lawyers.
Wall said waiting a year for this trial is not unusual. He said murder cases can take more than a year to get to trial even when the death penalty isn't at stake.
GONZALES — Defense attorneys for accused killer Dakota Theriot asked an Ascension Parish judge Monday to halt Theriot's prosecution until sour…
Theriot's defense team has pushed to delay proceedings because of budget woes in the Public Defenders' offices and the Louisiana Public Defender Board.
Prosecutors in both judicial districts have in recent months also pushed for funding to ensure Theriot is given a proper defense.
If someone is found guilty during a jury trial, the same jury also hears more evidence following a conviction, giving them the ability to decide if the death penalty is warranted over other punishments.