Man briefly escapes custody after being found guilty of first-degree murder

Man briefly escapes custody after being found guilty of first-degree murder

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Johnnie Hardman was convicted of first-degree murder Thursday morning.

Facing a mandatory life sentence, Hardman bolted from the courthouse and tried to escape.

Deputies say he came through the door that opens on Lakeshore Drive where inmates get in and out of vans that transport them between the courthouse and jail.

Commander Doug Poole says it happened in the transition when he was changing from street clothes to his jail jumpsuit.

"Approximately one o'clock today, shortly after the verdict, suspect, during the transition period between street clothes and his orange jump suit, saw an opportunity, bolted for a door, there was a short foot pursuit. Suspect was caught within two minutes," said Poole.

Poole says Hardman will be charged with escape and that they will review security procedures.

"They had two officers in foot pursuit, and the foot pursuit didn't last but a couple of minutes and he was apprehended.  Nobody was injured, suspect wasn't injured, no officers were injured.  We have protocols in place. We're going to review those protocols to ensure it doesn't happen again," said Poole.

At about 11:11 a.m., the twelve jurors came back quickly and unanimously to find Hardman Junior guilty, not only of murder, but also armed robbery with a firearm and two counts of conspiracy to commit armed robbery with a firearm.

Last July, 24 year old Joshua Touchet was shot to death in an attempted robbery also involving two others.  Assistant D.A. Loren Lampert is pleased with the verdict.

"They were working together, working in concert, thus the conspiracy charge, but the conspiracy and armed robbery, they are violent and were terrible in and of themselves, but their decision to take the life, to basically execute Joshua Touchet because he wouldn't cooperate with their attempts to rob him was just a tragedy all the way around," he said.

The state's case included many digital elements which helped track Hardman and two others he was with as Assistant D.A. Daniel Vermaelen explains:

"We basically could track their every movement from 4:24 that morning up until 6:15 when they were running away from the crime.  We had the Hop in video, surveillance video, showing they were all together, showing, showed what they were wearing. We tracked them later to Homsi's, about an hour later, after the robbery and shooting they were caught on home security just a couple hundred yards from the actual shooting taking off running," he said.

And jurors also saw police body cam video allowing them to see the tragedy police saw unfold.

"We're talking hundreds of hours of dash cam, body cam, surveillance cameras that officers waded through, tracked down tirelessly to go find all these things," he said.

Hardman Co-defendant Desmond Orphey faces trial later this year.

Formal sentencing is set for 9 a.m. July 25 before Judge Clayton Davis.

Theresa Schmidt was in the courtroom. To see details of testimony and arguments, view her Twitter feed below.

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