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

Brandon Boyd

Brandon Boyd was 17 when he fired into a crowd of people watching a street brawl on La Margie Avenue, killing a bystander in 2014, and two years later a judge labeled him "the worst of the worst type of person" while sentencing him to life without parole.

Boyd, now 25, is awaiting a new trial after his non-unanimous conviction was thrown out last year, and he doesn't want state District Judge Beau Higginbotham to have anything else to do with the case.

Boyd's attorney, Michael Fiser, filed a motion Monday asking Higginbotham to either disqualify himself or have the recusal motion randomly reallotted to another 19th Judicial District Court judge for a hearing.

Higginbotham has chosen the latter option.

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

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.

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"Based on the fact this Court presided over Boyd's prior (sentencing) hearing and determined Boyd is `the worst of the worst type of person' ineligible for parole, counsel would be ineffective for not raising recusal as an issue now, as it appears the Court's opinion on parole eligibility for Boyd is a foregone conclusion," Fiser argues in the recusal motion.

"A reasonable person might question the Court's impartiality in the event Boyd is convicted on retrial of second degree murder" and a parole eligibility determination is required, he adds.

"Given the strong statements and conclusions the Court made in Boyd's original (sentencing) proceeding ... proof of an appearance of bias exists in an abundance, creating a probability of actual bias which, in a life-sentence case involving a juvenile offender, is constitutionally intolerable," Fiser says.

Based on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in April 2020 that non-unanimous jury verdicts are unconstitutional, the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal vacated Boyd's conviction and sentence in September 2020. Boyd had been found guilty by a 10-2 jury vote.

When the 1st Circuit 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, also of Baton Rouge, 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