Grand jury indicts Lafanette

By Theresa Schmidt - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -He's the local substitute teacher accused of sexual contact with a student... Earlier this month the grand jury decided not to indict Marcus Lafanette.   But today, it changed its mind after apparently getting more evidence.

It was scarcely two weeks ago when Lafanette, his family and attorney spoke out seeking to clear his name after a Calcasieu Grand Jury decided there was not enough evidence to indict him. Lafanette had been arrested for alleged inappropriate sexual contact with a 15 year old girl who was a student at LaGrange High School. But now DNA evidence is in and that same grand jury has indicted Lafanette for carnal knowledge of a juvenile. According to information released in open court there was a semen sample taken from carpet and testing evidently links Lafanette to the alleged crime.

District Attorney John DeRosier and Sheriff Tony Mancuso held a news conference following the grand jury report.  Said DeRosier, "We have test results back that we did not have when it went to grand jury earlier." Mancuso says he wants people to know they don't go out and arrest people without proper justification. "That's what I want people to understand, especially in cases like this, the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's office is not reckless in making arrests and we try very hard not to jump to a conclusion. With that said it's also our job to protect citizens from possible sexual predators."

Yet Lafanette's attorney,  Cliff Newman,  says they should have waited to arrest his client until after the DNA tests were in. "You just don't go around arresting people if you don't have the evidence. It's wrong. It's wrong."

As to why the case was presented to the grand jury before DNA tests were in, authorities say only that they were trying to protect the victim. DeRosier said, "We always take whatever steps are available to us to protect our victims. And that was the reason the case was brought to the grand jury as early as it was."

Without a grand jury indictment, the defense would have been able to get a hearing in open court.  Said Newman, "What are we supposed to do? Stay locked up in jail and be accused and shown on television and not invoke our rights for us to find out what happened out there?"

A preliminary hearing or exam is granted by a judge to determine if someone arrested should be held for trial.  But a preliminary hearing is not granted if a suspect is indicted by a grand jury because it's the grand jury's job to indict only when jurors are satisfied that there is probable cause a crime was committed and a trial should be held .

newman says lafanette is out of town but will turn himself in to authorities. Bond for lafanette was set at 100-thousand dollars... He was also ordered to stay away from the alleged victim..