Baton Rouge teen convicted of second-degree murder in a 2014 fatal shooting on La Margie Avenue _lowres

Brandon Boyd

The judge who called a Baton Rouge man the "worst of the worst" when he sentenced him to life without parole in 2016 shouldn't be allowed to preside over the man's retrial, or his sentencing if he's convicted again of murder, the man's attorney argued in court Thursday.

But an East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutor countered that the argument by Brandon Boyd's lawyer would mean that every time a new trial was ordered, the original trial judge would have to be disqualified from presiding over the retrial.

State District Judge Fred Crifasi took the arguments from both sides under advisement and said he would issue a ruling Oct. 15 on whether one of his 19th Judicial District Court colleagues, Judge Beau Higginbotham, should be recuse from the case.

Both sides said this is the first time such an argument has been raised in the 19th JDC.

"This is a significant decision and a unique circumstance," Crifasi acknowledged.

Boyd's attorney, Michael Fiser, told Crifasi he is asking that Higginbotham be disqualified from presiding over the retrial and any new sentencing because the same judge should handle both. Fiser did not allege that Higginbotham could not conduct a fair retrial. Crifasi was randomly selected to hear Boyd's recusal motion.

Boyd was 17 when he allegedly fired into a crowd of people watching a street brawl on La Margie Avenue in 2014, killing a bystander. Two years later, he was found guilty of second-degree murder by a non-unanimous jury. Higginbotham labeled Boyd "the worst of the worst type of person" while sentencing him to life without parole.

Boyd's conviction and life-without-parole prison term were thrown out last year after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed split-jury verdicts.

Boyd, 25, has not received a new trial date, but Fiser argued Thursday to Crifasi that Higgimbotham could not be "fair and unbiased" if he were called upon to sentence Boyd again.

If Higginbotham were to continue to preside over the case and Boyd is found guilty a second time, the judge would once again have to determine whether the mandatory life term would be served with or without parole.

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"Due process requires a clean slate with a judge who hasn't predetermined the case," Fisher said.

Assistant District Attorney Jermaine Guillory noted that judges are asked to weigh the evidence when signing arrest warrants and setting bonds, and he said Fiser's logic would dictate that a new judge handle each stage of a criminal proceeding.

"That's not the case," he told Crifasi.

When dealing with juvenile killers, the nation's highest court has said life without parole terms should be reserved for the worst cases and worst offenders.

For juvenile killers found not to be beyond rehabilitation, Louisiana law allows them a chance at a parole hearing after they've spent 25 years in jail.

Crifasi stated that Higginbotham was required by law to make a finding as to whether Boyd met the criteria for a life without parole sentence.

"It was not something impromptu on his part or lagniappe," Crifasi said.

When the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal initially affirmed Boyd's sentence in 2019, Judge Vanessa Whipple said the fact that he was a first-time offender "does little to mitigate the atrocity of the crime." Circuit Judge Mike McDonald called Boyd "a threat to society" who "earned this sentence."

A bystander, Emanuelle Myles, 24, of Baton Rouge, was killed in the shooting. Another man who was 19 at the time was shot in the arm.

Boyd and Myles were among those who had gathered in a parking lot to watch four people fight, police have said. At some point during the fight, Boyd — who knew two of the people involved in the fight — pulled out a gun and fired multiple shots.


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