May 9, 2007
Reported by: Britney Glaser
Every week, a national organization called "Parents of Murdered Children" or POMC responds to more than 1,000 murder-related contacts. The need for an outlet to grieve together and heal wounds led to the founding of a Louisiana chapter of POMC last year, and it's actually headquartered right here in Southwest Louisiana.
The families that lost children at the hands of murderers are fighting a battle years after the crimes were committed. Coping with the murder of your child, in itself, is too difficult to even grasp. But now, even years after these families were victimized by murderers - they are enduring a slow court process to bring the murderers to trial.
"It consumes your life," says Billie Marsh, whose son, Bradley was murdered five years ago. "It's been almost five years since the grand jury indicted the young man that did it," says Marsh. But, because the average cost of a first degree murder trial is more than $300,000, the murderer has yet to go to trial. "You wake up every day of your life," says Marsh, "and you wonder, 'are they going to tell me that we're going to have a trial or aren't they?' They just...it doesn't stop."
Julia Fontenot lost her son, Tony, three years ago to the hands of a murderer. She is also waiting for justice to be served. "You're victimized when your child is murdered, or anyone you love is murdered, but when you cannot get to court and get justice - you are being victimized all over again," says Fontenot.
In Calcasieu Parish, there are five pending first degree murder cases that haven't been brought to court for more than five years. District Attorney John DeRosier says this is a frustrating problem. "The funding of those capital defense counsels is the sole hold-up on these cases as we speak today," says DeRosier.
There is hope, though, for these families to move one step closer to justice. This legislative session there is an indigent defense bill that could put millions of dollars aside to finally bring these murderers to trial. "I really believe that this legislative session will result in some very positive moves forward," says DeRosier.
Although the families are subjected to reliving the emotional loss of their loved ones through the long court process, they say they will not have closure with the murder until justice is truly served. "You just want to have a closure for him - that you've gotten the person who did this to him," says Marsh.
Aside from the state not having enough funds to bring these criminals to trial, there is also an issue of appointing a capital trial defense lawyer. In Southwest Louisiana, this is a problem because they are not readily available.
DeRosier says one option that could bring these cases to court much sooner is by lessening the charge of first degree murder (which carries the death penalty in Louisiana) down to second degree murder (which carries life in prison without probation or parole), or finally to manslaughter (which carries up to 40 years in prison). The Marsh and Fontenot families say the murder charges in the cases of their sons should not be lessened and they will continue to wait until the murderer goes to court.
SWLA POMC will hold its monthly meeting Thursday, May 10 at 6:30 PM at the Habibi Shrine Center on Pack Road in Lake Charles. Senator Willie Mount will be on hand to address the issue of a lack of funding in bringing these murder trials to court in a timely manner.