A former LSU student accused in the 2017 alcohol-related hazing death of fraternity pledge Max Gruver wants his indictment thrown out because a computer glitch kept younger people off the grand jury that indicted him.

Anyone born after mid-1993 was not called to serve on grand juries — and trial juries — in East Baton Rouge Parish for more than seven years because of the computer glitch, which was discovered in a different case earlier this year.

Matthew Naquin, 21, of Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, was indicted on negligent homicide by an East Baton Rouge jury in early 2018 and is scheduled to stand trial July 8. He faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

The computer glitch was discovered during jury selection in Baton Rouge in a capital murder case from Caddo Parish. The state Supreme Court ruled in that case in April that East Baton Rouge's jury pool was "improperly constituted" and ordered a new pool that included persons born after June 2, 1993.

Naquin's attorney, John McLindon, argues in a motion filed recently in the 19th Judicial District Court that the process of selecting grand jurors and trial jurors was flawed when members of the grand jury were selected to consider Naquin's case.

“It is my understanding that citizens under the age of 25 were excluded from the potential jury pool and were never given an opportunity to serve,” McLindon said Monday. “This issue is particularly important in our case because the case involves the conduct and actions of several people who were in that exact age group.”

McLindon is asking state District Judge Beau Higginbotham to hear the motion Friday and quash, or throw out, Naquin’s indictment.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III, who opposes the motion, said it is important to note that the computer glitch “was an error and was not purposeful.”

“Intentional discrimination is required to meet an equal protection challenge to the selection of grand juries, not an unintentional computer error,” he said. “Based on the facts that have already been proven and compared to the law regarding invalidating a grand jury indictment, the court should find that the motion to quash lacks merit.”

If Higginbotham rules in Naquin’s favor and that ruling is affirmed on appeal, prosecutors would have to present the case to a new grand jury. Such a ruling would not implicate Naquin’s speedy trial rights because the flawed grand jury pool was not due to any fault of the prosecution.

Administrators in the 19th JDC have said a properly constituted East Baton Rouge jury pool from which grand jurors and trial jurors are chosen has been in place since last month.

Naquin’s motion to quash was not the first to be filed in the 19th JDC in the wake of the revelation of the computer glitch and the Supreme Court's subsequent ruling in the Caddo case of accused cop-killer Grover Cannon.

Last month, state District Judge Richard Anderson denied convicted killer David Bueso's motion for a new trial and sentenced the 21-year-old Honduran man to life in prison in the 2017 bludgeoning death of his former roommate, Jhoel Tercero Brisuela, in the Gardere area of Baton Rouge.

Bueso's appellate attorneys argued that his grand jury and trial jury were both unconstitutionally flawed.

In the Gruver case, Naquin's ex-roommate at LSU, Ryan Matthew Isto, 19, of Butte, Montana, and former LSU student Sean-Paul Gott, 22, of Lafayette, pleaded "no contest" last fall to misdemeanor hazing and agreed to testify at Naquin's trial. Another ex-LSU student charged with hazing, Patrick Andrew Forde, 21, of Westwood, Massachusetts, has promised to cooperate with prosecutors and testify at the trial. Prosecutors said they will decide later whether to prosecute Forde.

Gruver, 18, of Roswell, Georgia, died Sept. 14, 2017, of alcohol poisoning following a hazing ritual dubbed “Bible study,” in which Phi Delta Theta pledges were required to chug hard liquor if they gave wrong answers to questions about the fraternity.

An autopsy showed his blood-alcohol level was 0.495 percent, which is more than six times the legal limit to drive in Louisiana. The autopsy also detected the chemical found in marijuana, THC, in his system.

Prosecutors have alleged that Naquin did not want Gruver in Phi Delta Theta and targeted the freshman pledge the night he died.

Previously filed court documents indicate Naquin was warned by members of the fraternity just days before Gruver died to tone down his interactions with pledges. He was told his actions with pledges were extreme and dangerous, the documents allege. Higginbotham has ruled that prosecutors can use that evidence at Naquin’s trial.

Phi Delta Theta has been banned from the LSU campus until at least 2033.


Email Joe Gyan Jr. at jgyan@theadvocate.com.