A man who admitted to brutally beating a former Marine inside New Orleans' jail in 2012 was ordered booked on a count of manslaughter after investigators determined his victim's death this year resulted from the attack.
Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell on Oct. 16 signed an arrest warrant blaming Edwin K. Lee, 25, for the Aug. 5 death of 71-year-old Terry Smith at a state-run nursing home.
Lee had pleaded guilty in 2014 to second-degree battery of Smith and received a five-year sentence.
The normal constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy does not apply in this case because Smith's death was not a factor at the time Lee entered his guilty plea, legal scholars said.
News of the attack on Smith helped fuel widespread calls for New Orleans jail reforms that led eventually to a federal court consent decree mandating improved conditions there.
He never regained full brain function after the attack, living out most of the rest of his days either at a nursing home or at a hospital being treated for repeated lung infections resulting from the loss of his ability to cough or swallow.
Authorities first jailed Smith in early 2012 on allegations that he "obstructed a public way" during Mardi Gras, housing him in the psychiatric section of the now-shuttered, notoriously violent House of Detention.
A jail altercation involving Smith left him with broken bones in his face, though a much more serious incident would follow, according to a lawsuit filed on his behalf.
Officials briefly released Smith from custody in June 2012, but he was rearrested on allegations of trespassing and carrying the type of glass pipe used to smoke crack cocaine. Smith was again housed among a group of mentally ill inmates, this time in the jail building known as Templeman V.
Smith was in search of coffee when Lee — described as violent and mentally ill — struck him more than once in the face, knocking his head into a metal bench and sending him to the floor, the lawsuit said. Smith's brain hemorrhaged, leaving him essentially brain dead and unable to walk or communicate.
The Southern Poverty Law Center filed the lawsuit on Smith's behalf.
As he approved the consent decree mandating sweeping changes at the jail, U.S. District Judge Lance Africk pointed to Smith's beating as an example of the dangers posed by an understaffed lockup.
Sheriff Marlin Gusman's office settled Smith's lawsuit in 2015 with an agreement to pay an undisclosed amount of money to cover any of his medical costs that were not covered by Medicaid for the rest of his life.
After Smith's death, Orleans Parish Coroner Jeffrey Rouse's office determined he had been the victim of a homicide, according to Lee's arrest warrant, which was obtained by The Advocate on Thursday.
Lee remains imprisoned at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center until 2027 for simple escape and battery convictions unrelated to Smith's beating, according to records. He faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of manslaughter.
A former Marine who was brutally beaten inside the New Orleans jail five years ago, helping fuel widespread calls for changes and eventually a…