A judge rejected a defense request Monday to prevent a prosecutor and state witnesses from calling a Baton Rouge woman "evil" or a "monster" during her manslaughter trial in the gruesome 2014 death of her 82-year-old mother.

State District Judge Mike Erwin also denied a motion by Joleslie Looney's attorney to force prosecutors to use only black-and-white autopsy and crime scene photographs during the trial.

Looney's court-appointed lawyer, Stephen Sterling, filed those motions Monday morning just before the start of jury selection in her case. The process of picking a jury will resume Tuesday.


Bessie Looney was found Sept. 29, 2014, naked and dead in her wheelchair in the Looneys' North Acadian West home, sitting in feces and covered with bedsores. Coroner's officials classified her death as a homicide and said she died from a blood infection caused by the severely infected sores.

East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Dana Cummings said she does not plan on referring to the 56-year-old Joleslie Looney as evil or a monster but will show the jury a combined 30 autopsy and crime scene photos, all in color.

Cummings said she argued to Erwin during a bench conference Monday that the prosecution is entitled to the "moral force" of the evidence.

Joleslie Looney's daughter, Lauren Looney, 21, also is charged with manslaughter in her grandmother's death and is scheduled to stand trial March 19.


In the motion Sterling filed to restrict the use of prejudicial terminology at Joleslie Looney's trial, he sought to exclude the use of the words evil, monster, killer and even "defendant." He said his client should be referred to only as "the accused."

"The use of the term 'defendant' or any other derogatory terms would imply the accused is required to defend against any and all allegations and/or accusations," he wrote. "To allow use of the term 'defendant' deprives the accused of her fundamental constitutional right of 'presumption of innocence.'"

As for the photographs that Sterling calls gruesome and inflammatory, he contends they are highly prejudicial and will only "arouse the jury's hostility toward Ms. Looney."

"Clearly, the color versions are more likely to cause a juror to be ill, offended and potentially have nightmares than the black and white copies," he added in the motion concerning the photos.

The motion also asks that the prosecution be admonished "not to make a grand ordeal" of the photos.


Joleslie and Lauren Looney told police they were aware of Bessie Looney's condition but said it did not appear severe to them, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

Coroner's officials said malnutrition, dementia and heart disease were contributing factors in the elderly woman's death.

Follow Joe Gyan Jr. on Twitter, @JoeGyanJr.