Victors refuse to enter pleas

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 18, 2010



LAPLACE – Errol and Tonya Victor were back in court Monday for an arraignment hearing on second-degree murder charges, but neither wished to enter a plea in the case.

Court personnel said Monday that Errol Victor was so adamant in his refusal that he was escorted out after causing a disturbance in the courtroom and screaming to District Court Judge Mary Hotard Becnel, “I’m not going to enter the plea you want me to enter.”

The Victors were both indicted on second-degree murder charges in the 2008 death of 8-year-old M.L. Lloyd III, who is Tonya Victor’s son and Errol Victor’s stepson.

Despite having a court-appointed attorney from the St. John public defenders’ office, Errol Victor reportedly demanded to the court that he wished to represent himself. Court documents show Victor filed a motion to “refuse indictment without dishonor” before he was removed from the courtroom by a sheriff’s deputy and another unidentified man. Becnel has set a hearing for that motion next week.

Following Victor’s exit, Becnel submitted for the record that Victor “caused a disturbance in court.” She also entered a plea of not guilty for him. When Tonya Victor refused to speak at all, Becnel entered a not guilty plea on her behalf.

Monday’s arraignment was the third for the Victors since their April 2008 arrest on the murder charges. The couple was first indicted on first-degree murder charges, then re-indicted on second-degree murder charges. That indictment was thrown out by Judge Madeline Jasmine when it was determined a member of the grand jury wore a shirt advertising his employment with the St. John Sheriff’s Office. On the third indictment, the case was reassigned and put in Becnel’s court.

Becnel still must also rule on a motion heard on Aug. 4, that she recuse herself and allow the case to return to Jasmine’s court. It is not clear if that motion will also be heard next week.

The Victors also have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court asking that their case be moved from St. John the Baptist Parish’s 40th Judicial District Court to federal court. The suit claims the state is “pursuing the indictment solely because (the) defendants are African-Americans in St. John Parish.”

In the suit the Victors allege, “African-Americans are more likely than white defendants to be treated unfairly, prosecuted and incarcerated in St. John. Louisiana’s ‘long history’ of racism, discrimination and partial treatment of African Americans in its court system requires a minimum inquiry as to whether this case (among others) should remain removed from Louisiana’s discriminatory legal system.” The couple also wishes to represent themselves in the trial.

No dates have been set yet in that case.

The Victors remain in the St. John Parish jail.